Booze fuelled illness on the rise in Lancashire
Hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease have risen in Lancashire as health campaigners call for urgent Government action on drinking.
Charity the British Liver Trust says an "alarming" number of people across the country are drinking too much alcohol, driven by a shift from pub to home drinking as prices become increasingly affordable.
Public Health England data shows that in Lancashire, 655 people were admitted to hospital with liver disease caused by excessive alcohol intake in 2018-19.
At roughly 54 admissions per 100,000 population, that's higher than the rate of 47 in the previous year.
Alcohol is the most common cause of liver disease in England, and the number of people with the condition has risen over the last few decades, according to the NHS.
People with the disease are often unaware of it until their liver has been severely damaged, when more serious symptoms such as yellowing skin, abdominal swelling and severe weight loss can develop.
Despite the rise, Lancashire’s admission rate is lower than across the whole of the North West, where there were 54 admissions per 100,000 population on average.
The PHE figures highlight the country's north-south health divide, with the North East producing the highest admission rate (69), while the South East has the lowest (30).
Pamela Healy, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: "These alarming figures hammer home what we already know to be true.
"Sadly, men and women who live in the deprived areas in England are up to six times more likely to die from alcohol-related liver disease than those who live in wealthier areas.
"There is a common misconception that you have to be an 'alcoholic' to have liver disease but this is totally incorrect. Millions of us in the UK drink at a level that is putting our health at risk.
"This has been driven by a shift in the drinking culture where drinking at home has become increasingly acceptable and affordable.
"While initiatives like Dry January and Sober for October are a great way to reset your relationship with alcohol and give your liver health a boost, making long-term changes is vital.
"By drinking no more than 14 units a week and having three consecutive days each week without alcohol, many people can reduce their risk of developing liver disease.”
She added that the Government needs to take "urgent action" by increasing the price of alcohol and introducing clearer labelling to help people understand drinking limits.
In England, nearly 13,000 people under the age of 75 died of alcoholic liver disease between 2016 and 2018.
Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at Public Health England said: "It’s vital that those drinking too much or at risk get the help they need when it’s needed.
“PHE is working closely with the NHS to ensure health care professionals are able to identify those at risk and provide them with advice.”