THE STAGGERING cost of treating booze-related illnesses and injuries in Blackpool has today been laid bare.
More than 30,000 people in the resort were admitted to hospital due to drink last year – and NHS Blackpool says medical treatment for health problems caused by alcohol is draining £100m from the resort annually.
Today a recovering alcoholic, who now helps those struggling with addiction, blamed Blackpool’s party culture for the problem.
John Scholes, 49, who has been sober for seven and a half years, said: “It does shock me, but I’m not surprised because of the way Blackpool is.
“Blackpool has always been a party town, but now people are just coming here to get absolutely steaming drunk. They bring their own problems here.”
Mr Scholes, from Bispham, who struggled with alcohol for 25 years, says more preventative measures need to be taken to reverse the trend.
He said: “We need to catch them young and teach them more about the problems with alcohol and drugs.
“It’s tricky to give a definite answer because we’re fighting a losing battle.
“We can keep it managed to a certain degree but we need to make this town more family-orientated and that would help get rid of the problem.”
The estimated £100.13m bill was based on research by North West Employers and Drink Wise North West, which took into account NHS, crime and licensing and social services costs between May 2011 and May 2012.
New statistics have also been published by the charity Alcohol Concern which show there were 31,523 admissions to hospital for alcohol-related illnesses in Blackpool between 2010 and 2011.
The admissions for booze-related illnesses or injuries in Blackpool are broken down as: 16,035 into accident and emergency, 4,943 inpatients and 10,545 outpatients
The cost for this is £1.8m to cover A&E, £7.4m for inpatients and £2m for outpatients which equates to £98 per person each year.
Coun Ivan Taylor, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for health and wellbeing, says a number of campaigns are being run to persuade people to avoid alcohol.
He said: “It is a very serious problem and we’re trying to do a lot of work to cut this epidemic of alcohol which we’ve got in the town. There’s a culture of drinking which we have to counteract.
“We’re campaigning for Government support to legislate and cut down the cheap, strong drinks.
“But if people have money in their pockets and can buy alcohol, they will buy it. It’s costing people in terms of their health and also their lives, because it is a killer.”
In the last year NHS Blackpool has doubled the number of nurses on its alcohol liaison team, which deals with 150 patients each month.
Steve Morton, public health manger at NHS Blackpool, said: “More work’s going into prevention via enforcement in pubs, clubs and off licences as well as education in schools, but no one thing will fix the problem.
“We need minimum unit pricing and restrictions on advertising so people don’t start drinking too much too young.”
Comparative statistics for Lancashire showed 246,479 hospital admissions across the rest of the county, which works out at £84 per person.
Craig Southall, chairman of Blackpool PubWatch, claimed stay-at-home drinkers account for many of the problems caused by booze in the resort.
He said: “From the pubs’ point of view all the venues in Blackpool sell alcohol responsibly.
“We make sure people inside aren’t getting too drunk and we’re looking after them.
“We’re regulating what people are consuming because we have a duty of care but if people are getting a bottle of vodka and are sitting at home on their own that’s where you may have a problem.”
Nationally the research showed the cost of treating middle-aged drinkers was 10 times that of treating young people.
Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby said: “It is the common perception that young people are responsible for the increasing cost of alcohol misuse, but our findings show that in reality this is not the case.
“It is the middle-aged, and often middle class drinker, regularly drinking above recommended limits, who are actually requiring complex and expensive NHS care.”
BOOZE - THE FACTS
-> 9,659 people are drinking at very heavy levels which significantly increases the risk of damaging their health and may have already caused them some harm. This level of drinking costs £2.6m a year in healthcare.
-> There were 80 deaths attributable to alcohol, of which 56 were male and 24 female.
-> Alcohol-related hospital admissions cost £11.2m.
-> 73,427 people are drinking at very heavy levels which significantly increases the risk of damaging their health and may have already caused them some harm. This level of drinking costs £17.1m a year in healthcare.
-> There were 422 deaths attributable to alcohol, of which 278 were male and 144 female.
-> Alcohol-related hospital admissions cost £80.5m.