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‘Horrifying’ impact of liver disease on Norfolk revealed

PUBLISHED: 11:19 16 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:49 16 October 2018

File photo of a person drinking a bottle of beer. Photo: PA

File photo of a person drinking a bottle of beer. Photo: PA

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The impact of alcohol-related liver disease on the health service in Norfolk has been revealed in newly released figures.

In the 12 months to March this year 479 people were admitted to hospital with the condition, according to Public Health England.

That means a rate of 54 patients admitted for every 100,000 residents in Norfolk, higher than the national average of 39 for England.

Liver experts at the Institute of Hepatology said the figures are “horrifying” and called on the government to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol to discourage drinking.

A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “Liver disease is one of the top causes of death in England and people are dying from it at younger ages. Most liver disease is preventable and much is influenced by alcohol consumption and obesity prevalence.”

In 2014, the Lancet Commission on alcohol-related liver diseases estimated that health problems caused by alcohol are costing the NHS £3.5bn a year.

Professor Roger Williams, director of the Institute of Hepatology, proposed setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol to curb drinking.

He said: “Liver disease mortality rates have increased about 600pc in the last 50 years. That happens because alcohol consumption among the population has increased and this is linked to the fact that the costs of alcoholic drinks proportionally have fallen.

“Setting a minimum alcohol price is a highly effective way of dealing with the problem. In Canada, they had a 14pc drop in emergency admissions and 8pc drop in mortality in the first 12 months after setting this minimum.”

Scotland adopted this measure in May, setting a 50p minimum price per unit of alcohol. The Welsh government is planning to implement the same lowest price next summer.

Judi Rhys, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, called on GPs to improve their awareness of the risks.

She said: “Liver disease is a silent killer because there are often no obvious symptoms in the early stages. We know that at the moment three quarters of people are diagnosed in a hospital setting when the condition is quite advanced.”

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