New statistics published today by the Information Services Division (ISD) report a 1% decrease in alcohol-related discharges from hospital in 2011/12, against the previous year, and a 13% decrease since 2007/08 [1]. While welcoming this apparent decrease, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems is urging caution over the interpretation of these figures.

Dr Peter Rice, Chair, Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP), said,

“We welcome the slight reported decrease in alcohol-related discharges from Scottish hospitals, but there are no grounds for complacency. A range of measures have been implemented in recent years which we believe could be starting to have an impact. These include more effective and increased alcohol screening, greater public awareness and better licensing regulations. However, there is consistent evidence that alcohol-related harm falls during periods of economic recession. Affordability is likely to be a significant contributory factor to these new findings, we believe this is what we are seeing here and we should not rely on economic recession to reduce alcohol harm. We continue to support the introduction of minimum unit pricing, which will have a targeted effect in improving the health of those experiencing the most harm from alcohol. Benefits from this move will be sustained over time”.

Dr Rice added, 

“Alcohol-related hospital discharges in Scotland are still over three times as high as in the 1980’s and people living in the most deprived areas of Scotland continue to be disproportionately affected by alcohol-related harm. In all five years during which the latest statistics were gathered, the rate of alcohol-related general acute hospital discharges was approximately seven times greater for patients living in the most deprived areas compared to those living in the least deprived areas”.

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