Menace of alcohol is costing Leeds millions

A reveller on a night out falls over and is taken to hospital.

Two people get into a fight outside a pub over a taxi.

A householder passes out after too many drinks at home, leaving the grill on and causing a fire.

An office worker turns in to work with a hangover.

All these episodes are linked to alcohol - and all have a cost to the NHS, the emergency services or businesses.

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According to a new report for NHS Leeds, the total of those costs in Leeds was a massive 438m in the 12 months from April 2008 until March 2009.

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More than 35,000 adults in Leeds are high risk drinkers, men drinking more than 50 units a week or women more than 35, while tens of thousands of others drink more than is recommended.

Experts from Liverpool John Moores University were asked to calculate

how much this costs the city economically and socially.

Their findings were, according to Coun Mark Dobson, chairman of the

Healthy Leeds Partnership, "jaw-dropping".

Coun Dobson said: "I found the figures absolutely jaw-dropping that for the year 2008/9 there was around 438m-worth of alcohol-related harm.

"That is 730 per adult. To bring it together in the report makes quite stark reading."

Nearly 30 per cent of the costs were linked to the criminal justice system, while just over a quarter concerned the workplace or lost productivity, through impaired performance.

Health and social care spending made up 13 per cent of the total.

But the biggest sector was the wider social costs of alcohol misuse, calculated at 135.2m. These included the value of lives cut short due to people drinking too much.

City leaders say they recognise that alcohol contributes millions to the Leeds economy and is an important part of many people's social lives.

Coun Dobson said: "It's vital the economy remains viable. But the other side to the equation is when it's costing the NHS and the vast amounts of money which have been highlighted by the report.

"Nobody wants to be a killjoy and have a big stick approach, but we have to educate the public that whilst we want them to come in and spend their hard-earned money in the city centre, it does not have to be about getting into such a state that you become a drain on the emergency services.

"However the real message has got to be about public health and wellbeing.

"The long term effects on health and the long term effects on the health system will be dramatic.

"The message is to encourage people to enjoy nightlife but to enjoy it responsibly and drink sensibly."

Dr Ian Cameron, joint director of public health for Leeds, added: "Alcohol is causing significant amounts of harm to individuals and families and to wider society in Leeds.

"The amounts are getting worse. It's important for the whole city to take action, and together."

He wasn't surprised by the figures in the report - however he said businesses should take note.

Philip Paget, head of employment law at Leeds-based law firm Gordons, said it was difficult to estimate the true cost to firms.

But he added: "One of the first things an employer should do is have a policy covering alcohol in the workplace.

"It's important to recognise that ultimately somebody within an organisation who feels that an employee has got an alcohol issue is going to have to have a difficult conversation with that person to address it."

Mr Paget said measures like back-to-work interviews could pick up on absenteeism due to hangovers, while workers for whom drinking was becoming a serious problem should be supported to find appropriate help.

To tackle the harm being caused across the whole of the city, NHS Leeds is currently drawing up a new alcohol action plan.

Dr Cameron added: "The number of hospital admissions for alcohol-related harm are increasing. At present they are predicted to increase further. It's extremely important that we turn this around.

"We need to change and shift our attitudes towards excess drinking and move towards a situation where sensible drinking is the norm."


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