It’s very rarely that I post twice in one day (apart from Friday Sober Jukebox) but this is so superb and important I’m blogging twice today to make sure you see the coverage. For those who missed it last night The Guardian did an excellent Society focus on Alcohol and the NHS called Britain on the Booze.
I could have cried with joy when I saw this this morning as it feels like finally a respected broadsheet has picked up in a big way on what we’ve been discussing here on a daily basis for the last two years. Maybe now there will begin to be some acknowledgement to the size and scale of the issue which we are only too aware of out here in the sobersphere but the rest of the country (and world) seems to want to continue to deny. Hopefully not anymore …. but I am also aware that today’s news print becomes tomorrow chip paper so my optimism is held in check by a dose of realism. (As a side note MrHOF saw the start of the coverage last night but I’d just gone to bed and he knew that if he told me I’d have stayed up all night following it so he only told me this morning, and he was right, I would have done so thank you to him for knowing me so well!)
They looked at all aspects which included six reporters in city centres across the country report on one night of British drinking – and its impact on the National Health Service. There is too much to cover in this blog post so I’m going to supply all the links to their coverage and will pick my edited highlights.
So here goes:
Healthcare professionals share their experiences of funding constraints, violent behaviour and drink-related disease and death
I look after a 34-year-old woman who drank three bottles of wine and fell down a flight of stairs. She is visibly intoxicated but starts to become less responsive. Is this due to alcohol or a head injury? One thing I have learned is to never assume someone is just drunk. She falls unconscious and stops breathing. A tube is put down her throat to help her breathe. Scans report various limb fractures, a skull fracture, broken ribs and, more worryingly, a bleed on the brain – a potentially fatal diagnosis.
Staff tell of chaos and abuse, with high volumes of drink-fuelled cases now a daily rather than a Friday night aspect of work
(Exclusive: Firms claim to support responsible drinking, yet data shows those who consume at risky or harmful levels account for 60% of sales in England)
And it’s the same in Australia:
More than 3.8 million Australians average more than four standard drinks of alcohol a day, twice the recommended health guidelines, and these drinkers are targeted by the alcohol industry and branded as ‘super consumers’, according to the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.
Although they represent just 20% of Australians aged 14 and above, these excessive drinkers accounted for 74.2% of all the alcohol consumed nationally each year, the report says, making them valuable to the liquor industry (Guardian article)
(Alcohol Datablog: Discover how much alcohol people drink, and the burden it places on the NHS)
The Guardian coverage summed it all up beautifully too:
So that just about wraps up our Friday night live. Key conclusions: 1. drink is a problem 24/7 in hospitals, not just in the evenings, 2. for every teenager with a sprained wrist and hiccups there’s a serious recidivist who is on first-name terms with all the triage nurses, and 3. Britain may have its problem drinkers, but it has many great people trying to help them, from the staff in A&E departments to the street volunteers who try to protect people from themselves.
And that’s my view too – this isn’t about demonising drinkers, this is about acknowledging all the people who work behind the scenes to support those who get into trouble because of alcohol. The public sector workers be they nurses, doctors, police officers, paramedics. The volunteers be they street angels or street pastors. All those people who try to keep people safe from themselves and each other when under the influence of this legal, yet highly addictive and toxic, drug which is so normalised in society that we can’t even acknowledge the size of the elephant in the room. I wrote a piece for The Guardian 2 years ago when I said we needed to change the drinking guidance, which has now recently happened! Maybe just maybe this is the start of a bigger shift?
Will Self had something similar to say himself last week-end
My Christmas night in A&E accompanying someone on a vodka bender brought home the reality of what we ask of our guardian angel health service
Thank you again to The Guardian for such brave (and detailed) journalism – which it is when you are potentially beholden to the drinks industry for your advertising revenue ……
Edited to add: 24th Jan 2016 and their coverage continues! Ooh I could kiss you Guardian editors!!
Hepatologists in Southampton are seeing more young, middle-class and female alcoholics – some even in their teens
I find out a 35-year-old client died last week. Her drink of choice was cheap wine. I wonder why advertisers don’t use the people who actually drink their products. The woman I knew looked 70, with dead eyes.
Chris Owen, who developed alcohol-induced epilepsy, tells how the health service picked him up after every injury
The NHS is not perfect, show me an institution that is. I’ll say this though: I’m 100% certain I would not have even got to a place where I could begin to get better without it, and I certainly wouldn’t be walking around today.
And more: 25th Jan 2016
I go to see a patient in her 70s who is drinking at least a quarter of a bottle of spirits a day. Over the last five years, she has developed a neurological problem and can hardly stand as a result. Drinking started off as a habit to pass the time, but she is now dependent on alcohol. She has started to develop an alcohol-related dementia that will progress if she doesn’t cut down, and her liver is somewhere between abnormal and cirrhosis. She’s on a downward spiral. To get through to her, I explain her blood test results and say that her existing memory problems will get worse and threaten her independence. She looks at me in disbelief and agrees to cut down.
Thank you again Guardian – welcome to my world as a nurse ……..
PS The Telegraph also had similar coverage on Friday night with this:
Officers recorded every drunken fight, row and missing person during an alcohol-fuelled night in and around the city’s nightspots