The impact of alcohol-related incidents on the emergency services always leads for a busy New Year but experts are warning of the year-long repercussions by encouraging people to sign up for Dry January and think about what they drink.
Kent hospitals treat approximately 20,000 cases of alcohol related illness and injury a year.
Kent County Council’s Interim Director of Public Health, Andrew Scott-Clark, says this has a huge impact: “Accidents on the road, in the workplace and the home is not just a concern to the individuals and to their families – it’s also a major issue to health providers, costing the NHS in Kent an estimated £108million a year.
“Although the vast majority of people enjoy drinking alcohol sensibly and within recommended guidelines, alcohol related harm is largely preventable and it is paramount that we take action to reduce the number of hospital admissions, because we want to make Kent a safer and more sociable place to live and work.”
Kent Police Superintendent Lee Russell says they deal with thousands of alcohol-related incidents each year. “Our advice is to only drink in moderation and know your limits, if you choose to drink alcohol at all.
“You are more vulnerable when drunk because alcohol dulls your instincts and awareness of danger,” he adds. “Alcohol reduces your inhibitions, making you more likely to do things that you wouldn’t when sober. Drinking heavily on a night out puts you at risk of hurting yourself and others around you.
“Being drunk and disorderly risks you being arrested and getting a criminal record. Drink-driving not only puts you at risk of losing your licence but increases the risk of you being involved in a serious collision.”
Kent Fire and Rescue Service’s Head of Community Safety, Lee Rose said: “We attend many kitchen and house fires that have started through people not paying attention or because they have left cooking unattended.
“There’s no doubt that alcohol plays a part of in those distractions – fire starts when people’s attention stops. Alcohol can make it harder for people to wake up and realise what might be happening in their home, making it difficult to escape. Alcohol can alter judgement and may cause people to make bad decisions.
“We would always urge people to consider fire safety in their homes and watch how much they drink.”
SECAmb Senior Operations Manager and Paramedic Chris Stamp reports: “We handle in excess of 850,000 calls a year; calls involving alcohol as the main concern only represent approximately five per cent of these but the actual total is likely to be far higher if other categories (potentially involving alcohol) such as road traffic collisions or falls and assaults were also included.
“We’re dedicated to helping all patients and we treat people who are alcohol dependent every day and are able to help direct these patients to the specialist help they require. We urge people to be aware of the impact drinking to excess has on the ambulance service. We want people to enjoy themselves but also to know their limits, look out for others they are with and to be sensible.”
Research shows that the numbers of people dying in Kent from liver disease has risen by 43% since 2002. Kent County Council is asking residents to consider how many units they consume, not just in January but throughout the year, as figures show that 272,000 people in Kent are drinking at dangerous levels which increases their risk of many illnesses and conditions and may well lead to them dying earlier than they should.
A key priority of KCC’s public health strategy is to raise awareness of the recommended drinking levels which are to not regularly (ie most or every day) exceed 3 or 4 units a day if you are a man, or 2 or 3 units if you are a woman.
To kickstart the campaign, health experts are also backing Alcohol Concern’s Dry January, an annual campaign where people are challenged to give up alcohol for the 31 days of January.
Jackie Ballard, Chief Executive at Alcohol Concern, said: “It’s the time of year where many people are drinking more than usual as they celebrate the festive season with parties and get-togethers.
“This is the perfect time to sign up to a holiday from alcohol. Dry January is not about never drinking again. It’s an opportunity for people to reflect on their drinking patterns and to give their body a break from alcohol after the festive period. We know from previous years that people who do Dry January will feel better, lose weight, save money and many of them will have moderated their drinking for the long term.”
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.
Note to Editors:
Kent County Council became responsible for key areas of Public Health following changes to the Health and Social Care Act in 2013.
Its overriding aims are to improve and protect the health of the Kent population, and improve the quality, effectiveness and access to, health and social care services.