Alcohol treatment system continues to perform well, but there is more to be done

The system for treating alcohol dependence among adults in England is performing well overall for those accessing services, according to Public Health England (PHE).

The latest annual statistics released by PHE show that more people came forward for specialist treatment in 2012 to 2013 and the number who successfully completed their treatment continued to increase. Waiting times also continued to improve.

PHE says that around nine million adults in England drink at levels that pose some risk to their health, and an estimated 1.6 million people have some degree of alcohol dependence. Of these, some 250,000 are believed to be moderately or severely dependent ‘and require intensive treatment from specialist services’.

Currently there are around 110,000 people in specialist alcohol treatment. While the number of new clients entering treatment is increasing year on year, PHE says it is vital to continue to widen the availability and accessibility of specialist support to all who can benefit.

PHE Director of Alcohol and Drugs Rosanna O’Connor said:

Tackling alcohol misuse is a top priority for Public Health England. The specialist treatment system continues to work well for many people, however, there is more to be done. Local authorities now have responsibility for commissioning alcohol services to meet the identified need in their areas. It is vital in tackling the effects on both health and crime that alcohol treatment is easily accessible, that the full range of effective NICE-recommended treatment options is available, and that treatment services are properly joined up with the NHS and other partners including mutual aid groups.

In terms of the challenges we face, today’s figures only present a small part of the picture. The health problems and costs associated with alcohol misuse are rising year on year. Prevention is better than cure, and PHE is working to support a range of initiatives, including: identification of those who are at risk and provision of advice by health and social care professionals; improvements in hospital-based alcohol services; and the use by local authorities of local health information to inform licensing decisions.

The drive to reduce alcohol-related harm has the potential to both improve health and reduce crime in our communities.

The national statistics and trends are analysed in the report Alcohol treatment in England 2012 to 2013. Key findings include:

  • 109,683 people received alcohol treatment in 2012 to 2013, up from 108,906 the year before. This includes 75,773 new clients entering treatment during the year, a rise of 2% compared to 2011 to 2012
  • 40,908 people (58%) successfully completed their treatment, 1% more than in the previous year
  • most people (40%) referred themselves into treatment; 18% were referred by their GP
  • 71% of all those in alcohol treatment were concentrated in the 30 to 54 age range and the average age of a person in treatment was 42
  • men accounted for nearly two thirds of the treatment population during the year
  • most people in treatment were White British (87%); no other ethnic group accounted for more than 3% of the treatment population