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It's estimated that up to 22,000 premature deaths per year in the UK are caused by alcohol misuse (Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England. PM Strategy Unit; 2004).

Alcohol contributes to a wide range of medical conditions, including acute alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, stroke, cardiovascular diseases and cancer. It also contributes to health issues such as obesity and accidental injury and much social harm, e.g. crime and disorder.

Alcohol-related harm, from mental ill-health and alcohol-related physical complications, is estimated to cost the NHS around £2.7 billion per year; this is equivalent to about £6 million per 100,000 population aged 10 years and above. Despite the growing burden of alcohol misuse on the health service, it is estimated that only 2% of NHS expenditure on alcohol-related harm is currently spent on specialist alcohol services.

What do we know?

In Shropshire it's estimated that just over three quarters (75.4%) of the adult population are ‘low risk’ drinkers, similar to the national proportion of 72.1%.

Local estimates for ‘increasing risk’ drinking state that 19.5% of the population in Shropshire fall into this category, similar to the national figure of 20.8%.

In terms of ‘higher risk’ drinking it's estimated that in Shropshire 5.1% (around 6,000 people) of the population fell into this category, similar to the national figure of 7.1%.

Finally, ‘binge drinking’ accounted for 18.4% of the adult population; again this is similar to the national figure of 18%.

Lifestyle surveys in Shropshire have shown that there's no difference between deprivation quintiles in the proportions of people who exceed the weekly drinking limits. However, males are more likely to exceed than females and younger age groups are more likely to exceed the limits than older age groups. Similar proportions of people in all deprivation groups reported binge drinking, although males were significantly more likely than females to report binge drinking and younger age groups were also more likely to binge drink than older age groups.

In Shropshire all admissions to hospital, both alcohol specific and alcohol attributable, for males and females are significantly lower than the national figures. This is also the case for alcohol related recorded crimes and alcohol related violent crimes. However, alcohol specific and alcohol attributable mortality figures for Shropshire are similar to the national average.

What are we doing?

Alcohol services in Shropshire saw 396 referrals to services in 2010-11, with most of the referrals coming from self, family or friends and health and mental health services. In terms of numbers of people entering treatment, those aged 35-49 years account for higher numbers than any other groups. If the estimates of there being around 6,000 high risk drinkers in Shropshire are accurate, then the number entering treatment accounts for around 7% of this population.

Current service provision for alcohol includes a single point of referral, an increase in alcohol screening, identification and brief advice, brief and extended brief interventions as well as longer term counselling and support options. Schemes specifically targeting individuals where the court has identified alcohol as a key factor in criminal activity are also in place. There is dedicated support offered in GP practices across the county linked to the NHS Health Check scheme and specialist nursing and medical support available. Support is also available for carers and concerned others. If screening programmes are utilised to their maximum effect there is concern that capacity in alcohol services may not adequately address local need.

In engagement work with GPs alcohol was highlighted as a significant problem currently affecting health in Shropshire. This was of particular concern to GPs in the north and south of the county. These GPs felt that improved services were needed in Shropshire.

As part of the Community Alcohol Partnerships implemented in Ludlow and Oswestry engagement surveys were carried out with residents to measure perceptions of underage drinking and with young people to measure actual alcohol use. The youth surveys did show high levels of alcohol use from young people aged 16 and above, as well as a preference for higher strength drinks and drinking a high number of drinks on a regular basis away from parental supervision.

What can we do?

Take a look at the NICE guideline 24 which considers how to prevent dangerous levels of drinking.

Last updated: 02 March 2016 Print this page

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