Alcohol services struggling29th October 2008
A spending watchdog has warned that the NHS is failing to deal with the growing alcohol problem in England.
The National Audit Office says that services were not being co-ordinated because health trusts were not clear of the scale of the problem.
A report from the NAO has also called on GPs to play a greater role because the NHS was struggling to reach those at the early stages of alcohol abuse.
The warning comes as annual alcohol deaths reach almost 9,000 - double what they were a decade ago - and hospital admissions for liver disease have risen sharply with alcohol problems costing the NHS £2.7bn a year.
The NAO’s health specialist Mark Davies said: "The NHS is just not getting to grips with the issue. It needs to take a much wider approach and improve the way it is delivering services."
The NAO surveyed primary care trusts, GPs and other experts who provided alcohol-related services.
It found 25% of PCTs had not carried out assessments of the problem locally, 40% did not have a strategy in place and a third did not know how much they were spending on the problem. Those which could provide figures showed that only a fraction of budgets was spent on the problem.
Alcohol Concern chief executive Don Shenker said urgent improvement to treatment services was needed to "see an end to spiralling costs of alcohol misuse to the NHS."
But the Department of Health said the government was doing "more than ever" to tackle alcohol-related problems.
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