Select Committee on Scottish Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum from the Department of Health


  Alcohol is a traditional and enjoyable part of everyday life. About 93 per cent of men and 86 per cent of women (Health Education Authority, 1997) drink alcohol, and the majority of these people drink moderately within the Government's recommendations for sensible drinking (three to four units per day for men and two to three for women) However some people misuse alcohol, either by drinking too much in a single session—binge drinking—or by longer term hazardous or problem drinking.

  Misuse of alcohol can bring costs to the NHS. The costs can result from the immediate effects of alcohol misuse, with people who have had alcohol related accidents going to their GP or Accident and Emergency Departments for treatment. Costs can also arise from longer term alcohol misuse, as alcohol can be a contributory factor in diseases such as coronary heart disease, certain cancers and liver cirrhosis. Costs of this treatment can fall on both primary and secondary care. It is hard to estimate the costs of alcohol misuse, as it can be difficult to determine the extent to which a patient's condition is attributable to alcohol misuse as opposed to other factors.

  The table below contains an estimate of the costs to the NHS from alcohol misuse which arose in England and Wales in 1999.
Alcohol misuse-costs to the NHS £ million
Inpatient costs—direct alcohol diagnosis 52
Inpatient costs—other alcohol related diagnosis 152
GP costs4

Department of Health, Whitehall

October 2000

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