300 under-11s in A&E over alcohol
Nearly 300 children aged 11 or under attended UK accident and emergency departments last year after drinking too much, according to new figures.
More than 6,500 under-18s were admitted to A&E departments in 2012/13 with alcohol-related conditions, of whom 293 were 11 years old or younger.
The figures, obtained after a Freedom of Information request by the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC Radio 5 Live, showed that there were 30 cases of children aged 11 or under staying overnight in hospital with an alcohol-related illness during the same period.
Girls in the 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 age groups outnumbered boys for attendances at accident and emergency departments for alcohol-related conditions in 2012/13. Boys outnumbered girls in the category of 11 and under.
Overall the number of attendances at A&E for under-18s with alcohol-related conditions fell from 7,821 in 2011/12 to 6,580 in 2012/13.
The findings come from information released by 125 of the UK's 189 NHS trust and health boards.
The figures also showed 1,897 A&E attendances for drugs-related conditions in 2012/13 for children aged 17 or under, of whom 145 were children aged 11 or younger.
In the same year, there were 1,526 stays of one night or more in hospital for children aged 17 for a drugs-related condition. Of these, 70 were for children aged 11 years old or under.
NHS Ayrshire and Arran had the highest number of A&E attendances for children aged 17 and under with an alcohol-related condition in 2012/13 at 483.
Elaine Hindal, chief executive at the alcohol education charity Drinkaware, urged parents to talk to their children about the risks of drinking.
" It's shocking to learn that children under 11 are being admitted to hospital as a result of drinking," she said.
"These findings are a stark reminder about the dangerous consequences of alcohol misuse. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol as their bodies are still developing.
"Drinkaware is urging parents to talk to their children about the risks of drinking alcohol, and most children tell us they would turn to their parents first for information and advice.
"As important role models for children when it comes to alcohol use, we encourage parents to have open and honest discussions about the risks of underage drinking.
"We believe that the 'alcohol chat' is better in the living room than in A&E."
Dr Evelyn Gillan, chief executive of Alcohol Focus Scotland said: " It is seriously concerning that primary school children are being admitted to A&E after drinking alcohol.
"Children are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of alcohol and drinking at such a young age can have immediate negative effects as well as increasing the risk of problem drinking later in life.
"The alcohol industry has worked hard to ensure that drinking has become completely normalised in our society. So normal that 10 and 11-year-olds recognise beer brands before ice cream or cake brands.
"Alcohol companies are increasingly talking to young people through social media, an area of alcohol marketing that is virtually unregulated.
"Our children are not being protected from the damaging effects of alcohol. We must do more to keep them healthy and safe."
Michael Matheson, the Scottish Government minister for public health, said: "We need to protect young people from the harm caused by alcohol misuse and to support them to make positive choices.
"That is why we have worked to strengthen legislation to crack down on those who sell alcohol to under-18s, improve education in schools and have published guidance for parents and carers to talk about alcohol and highlight the importance of the example they are setting to our young people.
"Whilst we have seen recent falls in alcohol related hospital admissions there are, on average, over 700 hospital discharges and 20 deaths per week due to alcohol misuse. That is why we are committed to introducing minimum unit pricing which will address the availability of high strength low-cost alcohol and has the strong backing of those who work daily with the effects of alcohol misuse - our doctors, nurses, the police and public health experts."