As part of Alcohol Awareness Week, a new online tool is being launched which encourages Kent residents to ‘Know Your Score’, giving potentially life-saving advice from key health professionals direct to their desktop.
The theme of this year’s awareness week (16 to 22 November) – led by Alcohol Concern – is “The impact of alcohol on our society”. In Kent, it is believed that more than 270,000 people are drinking at dangerous levels which increase their risk of many illnesses and conditions and may well lead to them dying earlier than they should.
Kent hospitals treat approximately 20,000 cases of alcohol related illness and injury a year. There is also a huge impact on emergency and health services due to accidents on the road, in the workplace and the home. Alcohol-related issues cost the NHS in Kent an estimated £108million a year.
Kent County Council, alongside other organisations, from pharmacies to treatment service providers, is supporting the national campaign to raise awareness of alcohol issues and the impact it can have on our health and communities.
Today sees the launch of an interactive online test which asks users a series of simple questions to help them gauge how much alcohol they are consuming and the effects it could have on their health, in both the short and long-term. Depending on their score, appropriate key messages and vital advice about where to find help are then delivered by a number of different experts including a Thanet GP, a Swanscombe pharmacist and intervention workers from Kent County Council commissioned service providers Turning Point and CRI.
KCC Director for Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark said: “Although the vast majority of people in Kent enjoy drinking alcohol sensibly and within recommended guidelines, there are many who do not realise or are under-estimating how much they drink and the impact it has. It is paramount that we take early action because alcohol related harm is largely preventable. This new interactive quiz will allow people to be honest about their drinking levels and, via computer in their own homes, they will receive specific prompts and advice from experts which will provide crucial support and help them to change habits which could ultimately save their lives.”
A key priority is raising awareness of the recommended drinking levels which are to not regularly (ie most or every day) exceed three or four units a day if you are a man, or two or three units if you are a woman. One pint of strong beer or cider equals three units, as does a large glass (250ml) of wine. A small glass of wine (175ml) amounts to two units while a bottle of beer can mean 1.5 units but these can all vary depending on the alcoholic strength of the drink.
Cliftonville GP Heather Scott appears in the online activity. She said: “People can often be too embarrassed to tell the truth when asked about their drinking so, by using the online tool in the privacy of their own home, they are more encouraged to be honest with themselves. Drinking is an easy habit to get into and equally easy to lose track of how much you’ve had. The good news though is that by recognising how much you’re having and what it is doing to your life and health, small reductions can be made and make a big difference.”
KCC commissions a number of services and works closely with partner agencies from across health, community and voluntary sectors to spread the message about the recommended drinking levels and provide specialist support and treatment for those who are identified as needing further help to cut back.
Steve Fearns from CRI – which provides support services in west Kent – also gives advice in the interactive survey. He said: “Our services are much more accessible now, but although we are seeing a lot of people, we don’t feel that the number of referrals we get reflect the true extent of the problem. It would be great to be able to support people earlier but for many people it’s not the amount they drink which prompts them to seek support. It’s the consequences of their drinking (losing their job, the family, or a medical emergency), which brings them to crisis and then they find help.”
Rakesh Patel, a pharmacist from Swanscombe, has conducted brief interventions with patients as part of a KCC project. He said: “Lots of people started the conversation with ‘I don’t have an alcohol problem’ but then when they add up the units over the week they realised that they were actually drinking at risky levels. You could tell that this was the first time many people had stopped to add up how much they were drinking. Lots of people are drinking more than they should but they don’t feel at risk, demonstrating the importance of very brief advice and brief interventions.”
Kent residents are urged to “Know Your Score”, and to encourage their families and friends to take part at www.kent.gov.uk/knowyourscore
For more information on the treatment, support and recovery services available, go to www.kent.gov.uk/social-care-and-health/health/alcohol-and-drug-support