Labour pledges to fund an alcohol care team for every English hospital

Labour pledges to fund an alcohol care team for every English hospital

A Labour government would fund teams of alcohol addiction specialists in every NHS hospital in England, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth has said.

Mr Ashworth pledged to spend £13.5m to make sure all 191 district hospitals have at least three staff to provide help to patients admitted with drink-related problems.

The Leicester South MP claimed 600,000 alcohol-dependent people were not receiving the support they need following cuts to treatment services.

And figures obtained by Labour through freedom of information requests show that at least 41 English hospitals do not have an alcohol care team in place.

Labour pledges to fund an alcohol care team for every English hospital

Academic research suggests that the initiative could save the NHS £40 million in the long term by reducing the length and frequency of stays in hospital by people with alcohol problems, said Mr Ashworth.

The Leicester South MP has spoken of his own experience of growing up with an alcoholic father. He told a meeting hosted by HuffPost on the fringe of Labour’s conference in Liverpool: ‘It seems to me we are ignoring huge numbers of people in society who have an addiction problem, whether it’s for alcohol or drugs.’

Deaths from drug misuse were ‘at their highest ever’, while around 600,000 alcohol-dependent people were not receiving the specialist support they need following cuts totalling tens of millions of pounds to treatment services, he said.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 17% over the past decade, while alcohol-related crime in the UK is estimated to cost up to £13 billion per year.

‘I think we are failing large numbers of people,’ said Mr Ashworth. ‘Not only is it wrong for those people, it also puts huge pressure on the wider NHS.’

Labour last week released research suggesting that substance misuse services are set to lose £34 million in funding as part of wider Government cuts to public health spending totalling £800 million by 2020/21.

The number of adults in alcohol treatment fell by over 11,000 (12.2%) between 2013/14 and 2016/17, the party said. Labour cited estimates by Public Health England that Alcohol Care Teams save the NHS £3.50 to £3.85 for every pound invested.

The chief executive of Alcohol Concern and AlcoholResearch UK, Richard Piper, welcomed Labour’s pledge. Dr Piper said: ‘All the evidence suggests these teams not only help people get the support they need, but that they also save the NHS money.

‘Cuts to treatment damage lives and are a false economy, so initiatives such as this represent a clear step in the right direction.’

Discussing the impact of his father’s alcoholism on his upbringing, Mr Ashworth said that his own attitude to drink has been affected by concern that the problem may be passed down the family line.

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