Liver illness time bomb

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WIGAN could be sitting on a health time bomb with the town’s high levels of hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver diseases leading to more deaths.

A shocking report by North West Public Health Observatory and Health Protection Agency North West reveals that in 2010/11, Wigan had a rate of 286.4 per population of 100,000, equating more almost 900 people, for hospital admissions with liver illnesses as a result of drinking too much.

This figure is higher than the North West average of 215.9, making Wigan the eighth worst authority out of 39 in the region.

Incidently, the borough has a lower proportion of deaths from alcohol-related liver illnesses, with 13.5 - more than 40 patients - compared with 16 in the region.

But leading experts suggest that the borough could be facing a time bomb as high hospital admissions may eventually lead to an increase in fatalities.

Carol Beynon, lead author of the report, said: “One of the critical factors in liver disease is identifying it early. In terms of Wigan having lower death rates, it could be that Wigan’s hospitals are able to diagnose through hospital admission and treat them before it becomes fatal.

“But it could suggest there is a possibility that the rate of hospital admissions indicates Wigan will eventually have greater numbers of people who die from liver disease in the future.

“The reason we produced this report with local analysis is that we are hoping local commissioners and service providers will look at it in terms of what it means for them and focus their resources to reduce the burden of liver disease.”

Statistics also reveal that the borough had a ratio of 414.8 - more than 1,200 Wiganers - for adults aged 18 to 74 seeking alcohol treatment, which appears to be lower compared to other regions, which had proportions of 1,251.3 (Blackpool) and 1,102.9 (Rochdale).

Wigan also scored higher than the region’s average in terms of hospital admissions for all liver complaints, with a rate of 503.8 - more than 1,500 people - compared with the North West figure of 482.5.

But the North West as a whole is significantly worse than the rest of the country, with the fatality rate being 10.7 in England.

Dr Tim Dalton, GP and chairman of Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG), said: “We welcome this report and will consider how it can help us to improve NHS services across the borough.

“Heavy drinking, obesity and hepatitis C and B are behind the upward trend and all three are preventable by healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight, taking moderate physical exercise, not injecting drugs and never sharing needles.

“Even people who have liver damage can prevent it getting worse by stopping drinking alcohol, eating well, maintaining their weight and stopping drug use.”

The study was done in collaboration with the National Treatment Agency North West, North West Cancer Intelligence Service and NHS North West.