Drinkers cost University Hospital of North Staffordshire's A&E department £1.6m
DRINKERS are draining the city's health service of more than £1.6 million-a-year as thousands of them are turning up at A&E needing treatment.
Figures obtained by The Sentinel show 13,005 patients have been admitted to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire because of alcohol over the last year.
The number of drink-related admissions has more than doubled in five years.
Now city centre bars face being forced to shut hours early as police battle to stem the rise in night-time violence and injuries caused by excessive drinking.
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Stoke-on-Trent City Council is carrying out an inquiry into Hanley's night-time economy and it could lead to bars which currently stay open until 4am being hit with a blanket 2am curfew. Chief Superintendent Bernie O'Reilly, policing commander for Stoke-on-Trent, said: "The so-called cafe culture tried to tackle binge drinking and associated violence by extending opening hours. This has failed.
"The widespread availability of cheap alcohol has extended the problem of binge drinking over a longer period of time. This has had a significant impact on policing and other public services.
"I am convinced we could reduce violence if we reduced opening hours."
It emerged earlier this year that Staffordshire Police dealt with 500 incidents at just 10 city centre bars in a year.
Hospital records show patients are being admitted to A&E for a range of injuries caused by alcohol.
But the biggest single reason for admission is people who have simply drunk too much – accounting for 5,419, or 42 per cent, of the cases.
The cost of actually treating these patients has soared to more than £1.37 million.
Paramedics also responded to 1,412 emergencies understood to have been caused by alcohol in 2011/12 – adding a further £282,000 to the health bill.
Suzie Fothergill, of West Midlands Ambulance Service, said the peak times were Friday and Saturday nights.
"Every time the service is called to deal with an alcohol-related incident, those ambulance resources are not available to deal with life-threatening emergencies," she added.
City councillor Andy Lilley, a member of the alcohol task group, is keen to include these figures as evidence in the council's review.
He said: "If the review finds cutting opening hours can reduce this burden on the NHS, it has to be a good thing for the health service and the people of the city."
Kevin Parker, emergency centre matron at UHNS, confirmed they have seen an increase in alcohol-related cases.
He added: "To help to tackle this problem, we now have very close links with the alcohol liaison service, including a previous A&E nurse who has joined the service.
"Our emergency centre consultants participate, alongside senior nurses, in a group looking to screen all our patients for alcohol-related attendances.
"We're referring these patients to the alcohol liaison service."