Joined-up thinking key to slash admission rates

LEADING substance abuse workers in Mansfield say the area should be proud of its comparatively low hospital admission rates for drug and alcohol illnesses - but society needs to keep working together to further reduce the problem.

Figures have revealed that nearly 600 children under 17 were admitted to local hospitals for drug abuse between 2006 and the end of 2010, and 151 were treated for alcohol-related problems in the same period.

David Henstock, senior nurse at King’s Mill Hospital-based Alcohol and Drug Liaison Service, said there is a drinking culture across the UK, but Mansfield and its surrounding districts are well-equipped to continue keeping children away from drink and drugs.

“I think the figures are actually low, nationally less than 48 per cent of hospitals have a specific alcohol referral pathway for patients and three quarters of hospitals do not have a specialist in place to deal with this,” he said.

“Although we are not a big city, it doesn’t mean that we will not have problems and rates will fluctuate from year to year but we have decent provisions, such as screening programmes, in place to reflect national thinking.”

David says ‘joined up thinking’ and society working in partnership is the key to reducing figures further and his team works closely with hospital paediatricians, community drug and alcohol teams as well as local support services.

Partnership work includes liaising with police, social workers, school education project, Citizens Advice Bureau, Trading Standards and parents to help further reduce the statistics.

“It is important that we all take responsibility, drinking is a big social thing in our country, we cannot say that nobody else needs to do anything and just leave it to A&E,” he added.

“Alcohol is the main drug, it should always be top of the list - it is the main date rape drug and can lead to other problems including violence, unprotected sex, accidents and exploitation.

“The culture in Britain is to drink to get drunk - parents have a big responsibility and look at how accessible alcohol is in the home.”

Nurses like David work closely with patients to establish if there are other problems in an individual’s life.

“Often people have other problems which is what we try and identify and try and work them towards taking part in meaningful everyday activities,” he added.

“It may be that they are socially isolated, have problems at home or they have been excluded from school, we have screening tests where we ask them about their problems.

“Ideally, I would like to see these figures lower in my lifetime but I think they are generally quite low and we can be proud of this.”

Across the UK, figures show that 65 per cent of under 18s will experiment with illegal drugs and 24 per cent of 11 to 17-year-olds have been out drinking at least 10 times in the last year.

Tammy Coles, senior public health manager at NHS Nottinghamshire County, says parents can help educate their children.

“We should be slightly cautious of the figures as the coding, in relation to hospital admissions, is very open to interpretation,” she said.

“But we must ask why children are turning up in A&E and ask what other factors are involved, their parents drinking at home might be a factor.

“Parents have to look at how they talk to their children about drinking but sometimes people do not want to acknowledge a problem.”

Teenagers are urged to act sensibly should a friend have consumed too much alcohol and are warned not to leave someone alone and have credit on their phone to call an ambulance in an emergency.

The Alcohol Liaison Service is one of a range of NHS alcohol treatment services which provide help for anyone who has concerns over drinking.

For more information call Mansfield 622515 ext 3935.