Irish Times – More drunk children at British A&Es

  • Post category:News

Growing Numbers of children in the United Kingdom are ending up in hospital because they have drunk so much, with more girls requiring treatment than boys, according to new figures.

Under-18s have an increasingly damaging relationship with alcohol, with tens of thousands every year being attended to by ambulance crews, treated in hospital A&Es or admitted overnight, according to a report from the charity Alcohol Concern.

The number of underage drinkers admitted to hospital in England rose by 32 per cent between 2003 and 2007, from about 11,000 in 2003 to more than 14,000 in 2007, hospital records show. A total of 92,220 children and young people under 18 were admitted to hospital between 2002 and 2009 – or 36 under-18s per day.

Girls are 1.3 times more likely than boys to need to be admitted due to alcohol. Between 2004 and 2009 23,347 females under 18 received treatment compared with 18,159 males in that age group.

Alcohol Concern’s report paints a grim picture. Underage drinkers across the UK consume the equivalent of 6.9 million pints of beer or 1.7 million bottles of wine every week, and 630,000 11- to 17-year-olds drink at least twice a week.

“The overall picture from the last five to 10 years is one of increasingly rampant drinking and significant rises in the harms that are associated with alcohol use,” it says.

Ambulance services in England and Wales have been called out an estimated 16,387 times in the past year to deal with drunken under-18s.

Helping children and young people with alcohol problems costs the National Health Service (NHS) almost  £19 million (€21 million) a year, Alcohol Concern estimates. Last year 8,799 under-18s received specialist treatment to tackle drink problems, adds the report, which draws on Freedom of Information answers, parliamentary questions and analysis of NHS statistics.

“As long as alcohol remains as heavily promoted as it currently is, young drinkers will continue to consume far more than they might otherwise, leading to inevitable health harms and wasting ambulance and police time,” said the charity’s chief executive, Don Shenker.

Government action was needed to tackle the “ludicrously cheap price of alcohol” and the NHS needed to offer advice and support to all under-18s who turned up in A&E departments after drinking too much alcohol, he said.

A department of health spokesperson said: “This report shows the devastating impact that alcohol has on the lives young people who drink too much. We must educate them so they understand how bad it is for their health now and in the long term.”


Source: The Irish Times (Guardian service), 23/10/10
Journalist: Denis Campbell