'One in five' in Staffordshire drink too much alcohol
STAFFORDSHIRE and Stoke-on-Trent has an 'alcohol problem' and at least one in five residents are regularly drinking too much.
New figures show 20 per cent of all people aged 16 and over in the region are drinking at a level which risks serious damage to their health.
Now Staffordshire County Council has rubber-stamped plans to form a landmark partnership with police and health services to invest £380,000 in combating the problem.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council is on the verge of signing a similar deal.
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Newly-published research by Alcohol Concern shows:
There are about 155,351 alcohol-related hospital admissions and 285 deaths blamed on booze every year in Staffordshire – both more than twice the West Midlands regional average;
Almost 100 city residents die every year as a result of alcohol abuse, with more than 38,655 admitted to hospital because of alcohol;
It costs every city taxpayer £77 per year to pay for treating people made ill by alcohol abuse.
The Sentinel revealed earlier this month how alcohol-related admissions to A&E at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire have more than doubled to 13,000 a year – costing the NHS £1.6 million.
County councillor Robbie Marshall, cabinet member for public health and community safety, said: "The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions is way more than the West Midlands average.
"We have got to do something about this alcohol problem in Staffordshire.
"Treating people is necessary, but it's also far more expensive than trying to prevent the problem in the first place.
"Whilst funding from central government that goes into treatments will carry on, this is the first time the county council and its partners have agreed to put money into a partnership for the prevention rather than the treatment.
"We've got to have a bit of courage and invest some money in prevention even though we have not really got the money to do it.
"It would be genuinely irresponsible to do nothing."
Mr Marshall added that couples who share a bottle of wine each night and men who 'drink two or three cans in front of the telly' are exceeding safe levels – despite thinking they are drinking responsibly.
The new funding, which includes £200,000 from public health and £100,000 from Staffordshire Police, could be used on initiatives such as hiring specialist advisers to work in GP surgeries and talk to those suspected of developing drinking habits.
Priority will also be given to education campaigns to warn people about the risks of heavy drinking.
Councillor Ben Adams, the authority's deputy leader and cabinet member for economic growth, said the move could ultimately make 'enormous savings to the public purse' by cutting treatment costs.
He added: "This has an impact on the wider economy, with people not turning up at work and people who are not at their best at work because of the night before.
"There's also the night-time economy. People have too much to drink, make a fool of themselves and put people off going into those areas."
Alcohol Concern chief executive Eric Appleby says older residents are more to blame than the youngsters associated with excessive drinking.
He said: "It is a common perception that young people are responsible for the increasing cost of alcohol misuse, but our findings show that in reality this is not the case.
"It is the middle-aged and often middle-class drinker, regularly drinking above recommended limits, who are actually requiring this complex and expensive NHS care."
Councillor Mike Lawrence, cabinet member for children's wellbeing, added: "If we can work together and make a difference it will save us a lot of money and also a lot of heartache."