PCTs fail to recognise scale of alcohol problem, NAO says

A National Audit Office report on alcohol abuse has criticised primary care trusts for failing to tackle a dramatic rise in the number of deaths from alcohol-related causes.

The report, released this week, found that about one in four of PCTs surveyed had not assessed the extent of alcohol misuse in their area. Primary care trusts were also criticised for relying on drug and alcohol teams to lead on alcohol misuse services.

Poor planning

NAO comptroller Tim Burr said: “If services to tackle alcohol misuse are going to make a bigger difference, primary care trusts need to understand better the scale of the problem in their local communities.”

The report warned that there was a lack of good planning in dealing with the consequences of problem drinking.

Admissions to hospital double

Figures show that there were 8,800 deaths from alcohol-related causes in 2006 compared with 4,100 in 1991, and alcohol misuse costs the NHS around £2.7bn a year.

NAO also found that hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver disease, mental health disorders and acute intoxication had doubled in the past 11 years.

“With its increased focus on the prevention of lifestyle-related illness, the Department of Health could, for example, do more to convince trusts about the value of timely advice to help people develop safer drinking patterns,” Burr said.

More information

Full report

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