Town hall and health bosses to unite for war on alcohol misuse

HEALTH and council bosses are looking at new ways to curb the damage that alcohol does to people in Wakefield – where it is estimated that around 46,000 people drink too much.

The city has signed up to a Government idea which urges police, council and health authorities to work closer together to save money and prevent the duplication of effort.

Called Total Place, the idea aims to reduce costs while at the same time improving public services.

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Analysis of pilot schemes running in other parts of England suggests that budget savings of five to six per cent can be made.

A report on the plans is due to be discussed by a community safety scrutiny committee of Wakefield Council on July 5.

The report says that Wakefield district has a particularly poor relationship with alcohol, with national statistics showing that the problems are worse than the average.

"In recent years there has been an emphasis nationally on reducing the impact of drug misuse, but less emphasis on alcohol misuse, which is arguably a far greater problem," the report says.

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"In Wakefield district there are around 2,811 problem drug users (Class A) compared to an estimated 46,000 people whose drinking is at a level that is harmful to their health."

It is estimated that 22 per cent of adults in Wakefield, around 70,000 people, consume at least twice the daily recommended amount of alcohol in one drinking session, making them more susceptible to illness and accidents.

The knock-on effects of this heaving drinking are felt by police and health services, the report says.

"Wakefield district can demonstrate strong links between alcohol misuse and crime and anti-social behaviour.

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"The most recent Wakefield Strategic Assessment highlighted that 57 per cent of recorded domestic abuse incidents are alcohol-related."

In 2008, 76 per cent of reported violent crime offences associated with Wakefield's night time economy were attributed to alcohol, the report notes.

The toll on Wakefield health services is also a heavy one.

"From a health perspective, Wakefield district is above the regional average across many alcohol-related indicators, for example chronic liver disease, harmful drinking and binge drinking.

"In 2008/09 there were 20,135 alcohol-related hospital admissions, of which around 37 per cent were re-admissions."

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The estimated cost of hospital admissions related to alcohol to the NHS in Wakefield district is around 10m a year.

Nationally it is estimated that alcohol-related crime and disorder costs the country between 8bn and 13bn a year.

A review of services to ensure greater efficiency and better collaboration is in its early stages in Wakefield.

The report claims that the Total Place review has the "potential to both improve the lives of alcohol misusers and generate efficiencies for those organisations affected by alcohol misuse.

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"The project in Wakefield is still in its very early stages."

A steering group has been established and held its first meeting earlier this month.

The steering group's chairman is Andrew Furber, director of public health for the district. He is due to attend the committee meeting to discuss the Total Place project.

The steering group is made up of representatives from Wakefield Council, Wakefield District Primary Care Trust, Turning Point, West Yorkshire Police and housing providers.

The scrutiny committee meets at 10.30am on Monday, July 5, in the Town Hall, Wakefield.