Rise in Wigan residents seeking help for alcohol abuse

The number of Wiganers seeking help for alcohol abuse is rising
The number of Wiganers seeking help for alcohol abuse is rising

The number of people receiving specialist treatment for problem drinking in Wigan rose last year, figures show.

The British Liver Trust charity said the figures were “sadly not surprising”, while another campaign group warned of barriers to treatment and support for problem drinkers.

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Public Health England data reveals 893 people received treatment at alcohol misuse services in Wigan in 2017-18, roughly three in every 1,000 people: up 14 per cent from three years earlier, when 781 used the services.

The figures relate to the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System, which counts how many adults receive help for drink and drug-related problems in England.

In Wigan, none of the 601 patients starting their treatment in 2017-18 was left waiting more than three weeks to begin. In other parts of the country, waiting times differ significantly.

Mark Leyshon, senior policy and research officer at charity Alcohol Change UK, said: “That fewer heavy drinkers are accessing services that they often so desperately need is a huge worry – alcohol treatment services must be seen as an essential element of tackling the wider social problems associated with alcohol dependency.

“Over half a million people in England are in need of specialist alcohol treatment, yet four out of five dependent drinkers are not receiving it. This is, at least in part, a direct consequence of continued cuts to treatment budgets, which have led to many alcohol and drug services merging.”

Stretched funding makes it harder for alcohol users, especially older drinkers, to seek support in a system that “seems geared towards supporting people dependent on illicit drugs”, he added.

Alcohol misuse costs the NHS an estimated £3.5bn each year. Doctors advise not drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week, the equivalent of a bottle of wine and two cans of lager.

They say heavy drinking increases the risk of serious long-term health conditions, as well as causing social problems.

There has been a 14 per cent rise in people seeking alcohol misuse services in the borough

Alcohol misuse costs the NHS an estimated £3bn each year.

British Liver Trust policy director Vanessa Hebditch urged Government to raise taxes on alcohol and tighten rules on advertising.

She said: “There’s been a big shift in the UK’s drinking culture and one in five adults drink alcohol at a harmful level. To make lasting change, we need to tackle prevention so as well as providing effective treatment and supporting those people, we need a population-wide approach.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Overall people are drinking less, however we are determined to do more to support the most vulnerable or at risk from alcohol misuse.

"As part of the NHS Long Term Plan, we are establishing specialist Alcohol Care Teams in hospitals with highest rates of alcohol harm, which will prevent 50,000 admissions over five years. Local authorities will also receive over £3bn in 2019-20 to be used exclusively on public health including alcohol treatment services.”