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Huge rise in hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver disease

The rate of hospital admissions caused by alcohol-related liver disease in Lincolnshire has rocketed over the last five years.

Liver experts at the Institute of Hepatology said the figures are ‘horrifying’ and called on the Government to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol to discourage drinking.

Cases of liver disease have gone up in Lincolnshire. Photo: PA/Niall Carson

Cases of liver disease have gone up in Lincolnshire. Photo: PA/Niall Carson

The latest data from Public Health England shows that the rate has gone up to 29 patients admitted for every 100,000 people between April 2016 and March 2017 - 63 per cent higher than five years earlier.

That means that 218 people in Lincolnshire were admitted due to this condition in 2016-17.

The data shows that men are twice as likely as women to receive hospital treatment for this illness across the country.

Socioeconomic status is also a factor.

The rate of alcohol-related liver disease admissions among the most deprived in society is 57 for every 100,000 people, but is below 29 for the most well off.

A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “Liver disease is one of the top causes of death in England and people are dying from it at younger ages.

“Most liver disease is preventable and much is influenced by alcohol consumption and obesity prevalence.”

In 2014, the Lancet Commission on alcohol-related liver diseases estimated that health problems caused by alcohol are costing the NHS £3.5 billion a year.

Prof Roger Williams, director of the Institute of Hepatology, proposed setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol to curb drinking.

He said: “Liver disease mortality rates have increased about 600 per cent in the last 50 years.

“That happens because alcohol consumption among the population has increased and this is linked to the fact that the costs of alcoholic drinks proportionally have fallen.

“Setting a minimum alcohol price is a highly effective way of dealing with the problem.”

Scotland adopted this measure in May, setting a 50 pence minimum price per unit of alcohol and the Welsh Government is planning to implement the same lowest price next summer.

Judi Rhys, CEO of the British Liver Trust, called on GPs to improve their awareness of the risks.

She said: “Liver disease is a silent killer because there are often no obvious symptoms in the early stages.

“We know that at the moment three quarters of people are diagnosed in a hospital setting when the condition is quite advanced.

“GPs need to understand how to interpret the results of blood tests and clear pathways need to be commissioned so that they know who to refer and how to refer.

“There has also been an exponential increase in the supply of low price alcohol to the public with a growing range of cheap drink promotions in shops. More people drink at home and more people drink wine and spirits which have a much higher alcohol content.

“A common myth is that you have to be an alcoholic to damage your liver.

“The term alcoholic is misleading as alcohol dependency is a spectrum and more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in way that could harm their liver.”