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Alcohol misuse

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Alcohol misuse

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states that excess alcohol consumption is a growing public health problem, causing 5.3% of deaths worldwide in those aged under 60 years. In the UK, alcohol use is the second highest risk factor for years lived with disability for men, and for the women it is the fourth highest risk factor. In England about one in five adults (9 million people) drink at levels that incur risk to health. In 2011-12, an estimated 21,485 deaths were attributable to alcohol consumption in England.

High Priority

Alcohol misuse and its effects are a high priority for both health and social care. Guidance from NICE recommends both health and social care should prioritise the prevention of alcohol-use disorders. Recent national strategies and reports recognise the value and importance of an integrated, locality-wide approach to alcohol misuse, including hospital based alcohol care teams. The potential benefits of an integrated approach include:

  • Local authorities: improvement in public health and reduced social care costs
  • CCGs: savings through reduced number of hospital admissions
  • Provider Trusts: savings due to reductions in mortality, readmissions and reduced length of stay per admission

Three locality areas

The Oxford AHSN commenced a project with three locality areas throughout the region to implement three innovative pathways and services:

  1. Development of a directory of services, to sign post health care professionals to services within their area
  2. Commissioning and implementation of hospital-based alcohol care teams
  3. Increased provision of screening within primary care

A challenge for the project

Pathways for alcohol misuse are very complex, involving a wide range of stakeholders and numerous organisations. This represented a challenge for the project. A further related challenge was getting clarity and approval of funding routes. These challenges made it difficult to progress work at pace. An additional challenge was the expanding scope of project from the original plan, with the individual localities focusing on different priority areas.

As a result, it was agreed the Oxford AHSN would withdraw from the project at the end of 2016/17. Each locality area is continuing to work on alcohol pathways and it has been reassuring to see alcohol misuse highlighted within Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships (STPs).

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