Heavy drinking raises liver death fatalities as NHS costs also increase

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DEATHS caused by liver disease have jumped by a quarter mainly because of heavy drinking, a report warns today.

The increase runs counter to trends showing a fall in other big killers including cancer, heart disease and strokes, prompting calls for urgent action to tackle the problem.

The first ever National End of Life Care Intelligence Network report today reveals 90 per cent of the fatalities from liver disease are among people under 70, with more victims now in their 40s.

Obesity, hepatitis C and hepatitis B are also being blamed for the increase in liver disease deaths between 2001 and 2009. In 2001, 9,231 people died of the condition, but by 2009 it was 11,575 people.

Men living in the North are more likely to die from liver disease. The highest death rates are in the North West with 24 fatalities per 100,000 people. Death rates in Yorkshire are around the English average.

The complex needs of many patients mean that more than two-thirds die in hospital, compared with 55 per cent of all deaths, leaving the NHS facing higher costs.

Andrew Langford, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “Liver disease has remained the poor relation in comparison to other big killers such as cancer and heart disease, yet liver disease is the only big killer on the rise.

“The current nature of the disease means that people are diagnosed late in their condition, this exposes the inadequacies in our healthcare system in identifying patients early and also the lack of will to invest in prevention strategies that will have a serious impact such as alcohol pricing, taxing high fat foods and testing for viral hepatitis.”

Professor Martin Lombard, national clinical director for liver disease, said the key drivers for liver disease deaths were all preventable. He added: “This report makes for stark reading about the needs of people dying with liver disease.”