FOUR in every five Saturday night admissions to the A&E department of a Scottish hospital are related to alcohol, shocking new figures have revealed.
Belford Hospital in Fort William, Inverness-shire, deals with so many drunken accidents at nights and weekends that medics are opposing a local pub’s bid for later opening hours.
Dr Margaret Somerville, director public health and health policy with NHS Highland, said: “At weekends and between the hours of 9pm and 9am, the majority of presentations to A&E are as a result of alcohol.
“At the end of November 2011 on an average Saturday night, 80% of attendances were due to alcohol.”
She added: “This is considerably higher than the figure of 70% quoted for peak-time attendance in England and is occurring outwith the main tourist season,” added the public health director.
Highland Licensing Board is considering an application from the Volunteer Arms in Fort William for a 2am extension on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Dr Somerville said: “I have received a high number of requests to submit an objection to this application from local GPs, health practioners and NHS managers.”
She said health professionals were “increasingly concerned at the high levels of alcohol related problems they see in their patients and the impact that this has on the provision of health services”.
Dr Somerville revealed: “The public health department reported on rates of hospital admissions attributable to alcohol for all 22 wards within Highland Council area.
“NHS Highland believes that excessively high levels of alcohol-related harm to health indicated harmful and high levels of alcohol consumption in those areas,” she added.
Inverness councillor Peter Corbett, chairman of Highland Licensing Board, said: “That figure of 80% is quite high and quite alarming.
“We are aware there’s a problem in the Highlands.
“There’s concern obviously because people’s health is being impaired and it’s costing the taxpayer a lot of money.
“Sadly it’s just a case of people drinking more and more these days but we are working closely with the NHS, police and many other agencies to try and tackle this.”
According to Dr Somerville, over the past 10 years, the rate of hospital admissions as a result of alcohol abuse has soared.
She also said that Highland teenagers are drinking earlier than most teens in the rest of Scotland.
According to her, the percentage of 15-year-olds who have drunk alcohol in the Highlands is 86%, well above the Scottish average of 78%.