Wakefield alcohol service reducing hospital admissions

A hospital service in Wakefield has saved the local NHS an estimated £1.5 million in the past 4 years by dramatically reducing the number of admissions due to alcohol-related illness and injury.

It comes following the announcement of new alcohol care teams in the NHS Long Term Plan, which has been welcomed by West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership.

The Alcohol Liaison Service (ALS) is commissioned by the public health team in Wakefield Council and delivered by Spectrum Community Health CIC at Pinderfields Hospital. The service, which began in 2013, currently employs two full-time alcohol liaison nurses. They provide support and treatment for  a wide range of alcohol-related concerns, including advice on safer drinking, clinical alcohol detox, support managing alcohol-related health conditions and signposting to partner agencies which provide access to counselling and community recovery.

The team supports colleagues in the hospital by overseeing discharge planning between hospital care, recovery services, GP and community services, as well as facilitating regular substance misuse training for frontline staff in departments which see the highest levels of alcohol-related admissions 

The Alcohol Liaison Service’s work has led to some impressive outcomes. There were 34% fewer alcohol-specific hospital admission episodes in 2016/17 compared to 2013/14. Over the same period, the number of hospital readmissions reduced by 36% and the number of associated bed days per year by 26%.  An estimated £1.5 million has been saved in the past 4 years. 

Dr Linda Harris, Chief Executive of Spectrum Community Health CIC, said:

“For some patients who drink at harmful levels, being admitted to hospital can be a stressful experience and might be the first time they have realised that alcohol is damaging their health. The ALS  provides focused, consistent 1:1 care to manage these concerns and help patients access long-term support. We are pleased to see that the work of the ALS has resulted in a steady decrease in the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions in recent years: between 2013/14 and 2016/17 the number of admissions for mental and behavioural disorders due to alcohol has reduced by 39%. Every £1 spent on the service generates an average social return on investment of £13.67 – a total social value of over £300,000 per quarter.” 

Most important are the benefits for local people affected by alcohol misuse. These include: improved physical health and wellbeing, wider access to support services such as community recovery, counselling and family advice more opportunities to develop social capital through work and volunteering and less chaotic lifestyle circumstances.

Cllr Pat Garbutt, cabinet member for adults and health, said:

“The ALS is a true partnership effort - funded by the Council, run by Spectrum in Mid Yorkshire’s hospital and working with its staff.  Secondly, the service is a great example of the right care, at the right time, in the right place. 87% of the Wakefield residents admitted for alcohol-related issues are treated by The Mid Yorkshire Hospitals Trust. Within the Trust, 88% of the alcohol-specific admissions are at Pinderfields. The service is therefore in exactly the right location to have the most benefit to local people.”

Despite some good work there are still major issues around alcohol misuse – particularly alcoholic liver disease where there has been no change in the number of hospital admissions. The work of partners in Wakefield and across West Yorkshire and Harrogate will continue.

Rob Webster, West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership lead CEO and CEO for South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Trust said:

“Preventing ill health is a major priority for our Partnership. A key strand of this work is alcohol misuse. In West Yorkshire and Harrogate there are around 455,000 heavy drinkers. Collectively we spend millions dealing with alcohol-related health issues, particularly in our acute hospitals. The issue contributes significantly to a wide range of conditions including cardiovascular disease, cancers, mental health issues and accidental injuries. Our ambition as a Partnership is to reduce the number of people admitted to hospital due to alcohol consumption by 500 every year.  The news from Government is welcome and we are waiting to hear more about the implementation of the new services highlighted in the NHS Long Term Plan.”