Alcohol is the third biggest risk factor for ill health and death in the UK after tobacco and high blood pressure, and can contribute to more than 60 medical conditions such as throat and mouth cancers, liver cirrhosis and dementia.
In North Yorkshire the vast majority of people who drink alcohol, do so responsibly. However around a quarter of all people who drink are estimated to be drinking at harmful or hazardous levels with 209 (2013-15) people dying each year as a result. Alcohol misuse continues to be present in our communities, putting additional pressure on our emergency departments, police services and blighting our neighbourhoods through antisocial behaviour and violent crime.
The more people drink, the greater the risk to their health, and for people with a condition like diabetes or high blood pressure or are suffering from depression or anxiety, alcohol often makes life worse.
New guidelines for alcohol consumption produced by the UK Chief Medical Officers (2016) recommend establishing sensible drinking as the norm as a way that is unlikely to cause harm to yourself or others, and also concluded based on recent findings that there is no justification for drinking for health reasons.
Alcohol treatment service
North Yorkshire Horizons is a service offering a range of free, confidential and non-judgemental services for individuals and their families whose lives are affected by drugs and / or alcohol, and who live within North Yorkshire. Services are delivered via a range of local service hubs, coordinated through a single point of contact telephone number: 01723 330730 (9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday) or via email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Anyone can make a referral to the North Yorkshire Horizons service e.g. self-referrals, family members and professionals.
Compass REACH helps young people who are engaged in risk taking behaviour to make sustainable lifestyle changes to improve their long-term health, resilience and emotional wellbeing.
North Yorkshire alcohol strategy
In January 2015 a county-wide strategy for tackling the harms associated with alcohol was published by public health experts in North Yorkshire.
The North Yorkshire alcohol strategy 2014-19 was developed by North Yorkshire County Council's public health team in partnership with local borough and district councils; the county's clinical commissioning groups (CCGs); North Yorkshire Police and the Police and Crime Commissioner and North Yorkshire Ambulance Service.
The Alcohol Strategy aims to galvanise partners to collectively reduce the harms from alcohol. It is under-pinned by three outcome areas, namely to:
- establish responsible and sensible drinking as the norm
- identify and support those who need help into treatment through recovery
- reduce alcohol related crime and disorder
A one year on report has also been published which describes the main developments against these three outcome areas, and what the impact of investment in this area has been on reducing alcohol-related harms in the last year.
North Yorkshire alcohol pathway
Alcohol identification and brief advice training
Alcohol Identification and Brief Advice or IBA has been found to be one of the most straight forward and cost-effective approaches to reducing risky but non-dependent drinking at an individual level. It involves screening, using a validated tool, followed by a short structured conversation aimed at changing drinking behaviours. The conversation (intervention) usually lasts no longer than 5-10 minutes and is aimed at motivating at-risk drinkers to reduce their alcohol use, or to offer referrals to treatment for dependent drinkers.
NYCC have commissioned Drugtrain to deliver free IBA training for front line non-alcohol specialist staff working in North Yorkshire. This is to enable them to offer effective support and advice to patients to raise awareness of the harmful effects of excessive drinking and to recognise sensible limits. To date over 900 front line staff have been trained including Pharmacists, GPs and Social Workers.
Being able to raise the issue of alcohol use can be difficult so NYCC also provide resources such as rethink your drink scratch cards, information leaflets and alcohol unit wheels to help trained front line staff initiate those conversations about drinking levels.