Belfast Telegraph

One child every week admitted to hospital as booze crisis takes hold

BY ADRIAN RUTHERFORD

A child is admitted to hospital every week across Northern Ireland because they are suffering from an alcohol-related condition, it has been revealed.

Some 174 young people aged 15 and under needed treatment during the last three years, including 52 in the past 12 months.

It is illegal for anyone under 18 to buy or consume alcohol in Northern Ireland.

The figures were disclosed by the health minister on the same day it emerged dealing with alcohol abuse in Northern Ireland costs £900m a year.

The Belfast Trust accounted for the most admissions — 50 between 2010/11 and 2012/13.

The Southern Trust had 34 admissions in that period while the South Eastern Trust had 33.

The Northern Trust recorded 30 admissions while the Western Trust had 27.

In each case alcohol was the primary reason for the child being admitted to hospital.

DUP MLA David McIlveen, who obtained the figures following an Assembly question, said it was concerning.

“These are worrying figures and are part of a bigger issue,” he said.

“Our accident and emergency departments are being clogged up by alcohol-related conditions. It is bad enough when it is adults but even worse when children are involved.”

Mr McIlveen said there must be a greater focus on catching those who are selling alcohol to young people.

“A lot of work has been done by the tobacco industry and retailers in particular to tackle underage smoking,” he added.

“We have to ask if enough is being done to combat alcohol abuse among our young people.

“It is alarming that amounts of alcohol large enough to put people in hospital are falling into the hands of our young people.”

It was also revealed yesterday that more than 300 people died last year as a result of alcohol misuse, while binges led to 8,000 hospital admissions.

The figures emerged as a counselling project run by Addiction NI, an alcohol and drug awareness charity, was launched.

Previously Belfast-based, the programme will now be rolled out across Northern Ireland.

It was revealed that alcohol misuse costs the Northern Ireland exchequer over £900m a year — around £500 for every man, woman and child.

Dr George O’Neill, chairman of Addiction NI, said the human cost was much greater.

“There’s not a single family in the province that isn’t somehow impacted, directly or indirectly, by the negative effect of these issues,” said Dr O’Neill.

Addiction NI has helped to deliver over 9,000 hours of counselling and dealt with 1,100 clients.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said alcohol abuse is one of the biggest public health challenges facing Northern Ireland.

“Alcohol remains our favourite drug, and it kills nearly three times as many people each year as drug misuse,” said Mr Poots.

FACTFILE

Children admitted to hospital with alcohol-related problems:

* Belfast Trust: 50

* Northern Trust: 30

* South Eastern Trust: 33

* Southern Trust: 34

* Western Trust: 27

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