Liver Diseases

Health written question – answered on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of Andrew Rosindell Andrew Rosindell Shadow Minister (Home Affairs)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps his Department is taking to reduce the incidence of liver disease caused by excessive consumption of alcohol in the UK.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

In June 2007, Safe.Sensible.Social.—The next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy (which has already been placed in the Library) updated the 2004 National Alcohol Strategy and has a main aim to reduce drinking that is harmful to health.

The Department has put in place a new NHS vital signs indicator from April 2008 to measure change in the rate of hospital admissions for alcohol related conditions. Included within this, alcoholic liver disease was responsible for 14,668 hospital admissions in 2006-07. The number of admissions with a primary diagnosis of liver disease more than doubled between 1995-06 and 2006-07.

We expect that this vital signs indicator will encourage the national health service to identify those drinking above lower risk levels earlier. This approach, linked with advice and support from general practitioners or other healthcare staff, has been shown to be the best way of reducing the kind of 'everyday' harmful drinking that leads to health harm, including liver disease.

This NHS vital signs indicator is included in the Home Office Public Service agreement to reduce drug and alcohol harm and in the Department of Communities and Local Government list of indicators for local authorities and their partners.

Since the introduction of this indicator, this year more than 90 primary care trusts have developed plans to reduce alcohol-related admissions.

In May 2008, the Department launched a campaign on alcohol units and health, with a second burst of adverts running later this year. This campaign highlights how regularly exceeding daily guidelines on drinking increases the risk of liver disease.

We recognise that there is strong support for developing a national plan for liver disease and we are considering what the national health service needs to do over the next few years in order to address these pressures, and how this should be monitored. We shall announce next steps in due course.

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