Alcohol problems worse than feared

The true extent of the health damage caused by drinking alcohol is reportedly much worse than official figures have shown.

Hospital admissions resulting from alcohol-fuelled violence or road accidents are not fully recorded in the numbers.

Many illnesses which are indirectly caused by alcohol, such as some cancers, are also not included.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) recently put the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions for 2005/6 at 208,000.

But now Government officials estimate that the true figure is around 811,000 – four times larger than originally thought.

It means that six per cent of all NHS admissions are in some way caused by drinking alcohol.

The news will add to the criticism of Labour’s all-day drinking laws. When 24-hour licensing was introduced in 2003, the Government hoped it would create a ‘continental café style’ drinking culture.

But according to the Local Government Association most police authorities, hospitals and councils have found that the new laws have failed to curb alcohol-related incidents.

A Department of Health source told The Daily Telegraph: “It is important that we get the real figures so no one is in doubt about how widespread and potentially damaging alcohol-related illnesses are. The action can only be taken when the full scale of the problem is known.”

Health Minister Dawn Primarolo is today expected to announce new measures to tackle the UK’s growing alcohol problem by imposing stricter regulations on the alchohol industry.

She said: “Around a quarter of the population drink to a harmful level. These people could be drinking themselves into an early grave – we need the drinks industry to give them the help and information needed to drink at a safer level.”

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