Homerton A&E saw over 1,000 admissions over alcohol in 2016

Over 1000 people visited Homerton Hospital's A&E in 2016 for alcohol poisoning
Over thousand admissions for excessive drink and alcohol abuse in Homerton Hospital in 2016. Credit Faye White.

Over 1,000 patients were admitted to Homerton Hospital’s Accident and Emergency department between 1 January and 1 December 2016, just for alcohol and drug use. This is a 14 per cent increase on the previous year.

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A Freedom of Information request has revealed total admissions for drug and alcohol poisoning increased from 949 (2015) to 1080 (2016). There were 94 admissions in December 2015. Data for December 2016 is not yet available.

The fewest admissions were in November 2016, with only 1.3 admissions a day (9 a week), and the highest in October 2015  with 4.2 admissions a day (29 a week).

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The Department of Health estimates the average cost of an A&E visit is £114, meaning intoxicated visitors cost Homerton NHS trust £114,114 in 2015 (including December) and £123,120 in 2016 (excluding December).

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Olivia*, 22, was admitted to a North London hospital after binge-drinking while celebrating a friend’s birthday in March last year.

“It was a really scary experience, and my memory of the night is patchy,” she said, adding: “From what my friends have told me I was being sick, confused and stuttering like crazy, my friend called 999 and I was picked up by an ambulance from a nightclub — the NHS staff were great and didn’t make me feel ashamed, they gave me an IV drip and I went home in the morning. Knowing it’s so common makes me feel less embarrassed”

Across the UK as a whole, hospital visits for alcohol poisoning doubled between 2009 and 2015, with the highest rate of patients females aged 15 to 19, data from the Nuffield Trust shows.

Half of all A&E attendances due to alcohol poisoning took place on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, peaking between midnight and 2am.

This data is likely to be an underestimate as it does not count patients who come in as a result of drinking, such as alcohol-related fights or falls. It also does not count those who have attended A&E under the influence of alcohol and been turned away without treatment.

A&E admissions due to long-term effects of alcohol abuse have also increased by more than 50 per cent between 2006 and 2015, with nearly 250,000 being admitted for illnesses such as liver disease in 2015. Rates of emergency admissions for alcohol effects are highest among men aged 45-64 and in deprived areas.

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person drinks a toxic amount of alcohol, usually over a brief period of time.

The NHS lists the following symptoms to look out for:-

The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • confusion
  • severely slurred speech
  • loss of co-ordination
  • vomiting
  • irregular or slow breathing
  • hypothermia (pale or blue-tinged skin caused by low body temperature)
  • stupor (being conscious but unresponsive)
  • passing out and being unconscious

*Names have been changed