One in 10 people in a hospital bed in the UK are alcohol dependent and one in five are doing themselves harm by their drinking, research shows.
The review looked at 124 previous studies involving 1.6 million hospital inpatients.
Led by Dr Emmert Roberts from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London and published in the journal Addiction, the report calls for all patients admitted to hospital to be screened for their alcohol use and for medical staff to be trained in how to diagnose and treat those abusing alcohol.
“The message needs to get out there that this is a very prevalent, very common condition, and unless we start treating these people, obviously we are going to keep on having a rise in alcohol-related hospital admissions,” said Roberts.
He said there has been a reduction in trained addiction psychiatrists in the UK over the last five years and a reduction in real-terms funding to community specialist alcohol treatment services.
The government had funded alcohol care teams in the 25% of hospitals that were worst affected.
“We don’t think that’s enough. We think there should be alcohol specialists in 100% of hospitals given the magnitude of the problem. It’s a nationwide problem that needs a nationwide solution and not just cherrypicking,” Roberts said.
Prof Sir Ian Gilmore, the chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, told the Guardian the figures were worrying.
“More than 80 people die of alcohol-related causes across the UK every day, and there are more than one million alcohol-related hospital admissions every year in England alone. This puts considerable pressure on the NHS, as well as other public services,” he said.
The World Cancer Research Fund warned that drinking alcohol increases the risk of six types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer.