ALCOHOL-related hospital admissions fell dramatically in the last year - but bosses have warned this may be due to fewer people coming forward for treatment during the pandemic.
Harm due to alcohol remains a ‘major concern’ for staff at Barnsley Hospital, and across the country, in spite of yearly numbers of admissions falling to 4,699 in 2020/21 from a record high of 6,080 the year prior.
The data takes into account Barnsley Hospital’s admissions where either the primary diagnosis or one of the secondary diagnoses is an alcohol-related condition, painting a picture of how impactful alcohol is on determining whether the patient has to be admitted into hospital.
Barnsley’s rate of 1,892 per 100,000 people is still the fourth-highest in Yorkshire and the Humber and significantly higher than both the regional average - 1,512 per 100,000 - and national average - 1,500 per 100,000.
The Gawber facility also saw the second-highest rate of admissions in under-40s in the region - 261 per 100,000 - and third-highest for males at 2,846 per 100,000, which is more than double the rate of admissions for females at 1,044 per 100,000.
Rates of admissions for conditions related to alcoholism also remain some of the highest in Yorkshire and the Humber - particularly cardiovascular disease, for which Barnsley has the highest rate at 774 per 100,000 people.
Barnsley also saw the third-highest rate for alcohol-related mental and behavioural disorders - 522 per 100,000.
However, rates of alcohol-related and alcohol-specific mortality are relatively low in Barnsley, according to the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities statistics.
“Barnsley Hospital, Barnsley Council and other partners have been working hard to tackle harm from alcohol,” said a spokesperson for the hospital.
“This work is ongoing, and partners are trying to understand the true extent of harm caused by the relationship between alcohol and Covid-19 lockdowns.
“Alcohol admissions to hospital did fall by more than 1,000 in 2020/21 and although on the surface this appears to be good news, we know that fewer people were presenting for medical help in general during the pandemic.
“Alcohol-related harm and admissions to hospital remain a major concern across the country.
“Admissions are significantly higher in areas like Barnsley with more deprivation and higher levels of other risk factors for poor health such as smoking and poor diet.
“Regularly drinking more than 14 units of alcohol a week can harm our physical and mental health and increases the risk of developing many diseases including cancer, heart and liver disease.
“Barnsley has high rates of serious illnesses and injuries related to alcohol.
“Recognising this as a significant challenge to local health, long-term dedicated action includes the well-established Barnsley Alcohol Alliance and the new Alcohol Care Team at Barnsley Hospital, which are helped by close working relationships between the hospital, local authority, Barnsley Recovery Steps and other key partners.
“Barnsley Council has also partnered with DrinkCoach, a digital alcohol screening tool that also offers free coaching to people drinking at harmful levels.”
The specialist Alcohol Care Team - part of a campaign to effect wider change across Barnsley - was formed last year to provide intervention and support for both those admitted with alcohol-specific conditions, and patients with other injuries and issues found through questioning to have been caused by drinking.
It will work in tandem with the hospital’s QUIT programme - designed to support patients to stop smoking as part of their routine care - and will similarly provide links with community-based services.