Addiction service cuts across Warwickshire despite soaring hospital admissions due to alcohol abuse

Alcohol abuse on the rise yet addiction services are being cut
Alcohol abuse on the rise yet addiction services are being cut

Budgets for addiction treatment services have been slashed in the county, while the numbers of admissions to hospital due to excessive drinking has increased by almost a quarter.

MPs have called for more investment in preventative services, warning that cuts represent a "false economy" in light of spiralling costs at hospitals across England.

The council's budget for addiction services was cut by 15 per cent between 2017-18 and 2018-19, falling from £4.6 million to £ 3.9 million. Alcohol-related admissions to hospital meanwhile increased by 21 per cent in Warwickshire between 2008-09 and 2017-18, from 2,860 to 3,459.

The figures were obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the Labour MP Liam Byrne, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics.

Mr Byrne said his own father died in 2015 after a long struggle with alcohol addiction, adding: “Every child of an alcoholic comes to learn the brutal hard way that we can’t change things for our parents – but we can change things for our children. But frankly that’s harder if addiction treatment budgets are being cut left, right and centre.

"It's simply a false economy. We’re spending money dealing with A&E admissions when we should be trying to tackle the addiction that lands people in hospital in the first place.”

Referrals to addiction services in Warwickshire increased between 2016-17 and 2017-18, climbing from 590 to 621. Of 118 local authorities that responded to Mr Byrne's request, 80 reported a drop in referrals.

In total, there were 5,061 fewer referrals reported across England in 2017-18 - a drop of 7 per cent.

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change, said this did not mean fewer people were in need. "The evidence indicates that there are fewer services to refer people to, not fewer people who would benefit from referral," he said. "With those in need of help being unable to access specialist support, they instead become frequent attenders at our enormously over-stretched accident and emergency departments."

The FOI figures show there were 335,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England last year - 39,000 more than during 2009.

Meanwhile, more than 70 councils cut their addiction services budget last year, while 50 are planning cuts for 2019-20. Around two thirds of local authorities say they have a strategy in place to support the children of alcoholics, of which Warwickshire is one.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “All children deserve a stable and happy place to call home, and it’s heartbreaking that hundreds of thousands of children growing up with alcohol-addicted parents in this country are robbed of this.

“In December, we committed to funding the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics’ helpline expansion, so that more children in this difficult position have rapid access to support and advice.

“Robust government action has led to a fall in alcohol consumption in recent years – but we remain committed to tackling alcohol-related harms and protecting the innocent victims of addiction.”