Alcohol addiction prescribing up 32% in east Suffolk while treatment budgets set to be cut

NHS Digital has released figures on prescription medication for alcohol dependency. Picture: GREGG B

NHS Digital has released figures on prescription medication for alcohol dependency. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

GPs in Ipswich and east Suffolk are seeing soaring numbers of patients suffering from alcohol addiction, it has been revealed.

Tony Kimber, chief executive of Focus12. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Tony Kimber, chief executive of Focus12. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: CONTRIBUTED

New figures from NHS Digital show a 32% rise in the number of prescriptions handed out in the area for the treatment of alcohol dependency.

In 2016, 395 items were prescribed by primary care staff in the Ipswich and east Suffolk clinical commissioning group (CCG) boundary, representing 99 per 100,000 of the population.

Last year this jumped to 514 items – standing at 128 per 100,000.

Conversely, there was a 35% drop in medication prescription for alcohol dependency in west Suffolk over the same period.

Brian Tobin, chief executive of Iceni. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER/UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK

Brian Tobin, chief executive of Iceni. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER/UNIVERSITY OF SUFFOLK - Credit: Archant

In 2016, doctors wrote out 683 prescriptions (302 per 100,000) for addicts, but this fell to 505 (222 per 100,000) in 2017.

Meanwhile, a document that went before Suffolk County Council’s scrutiny committee today revealed funding for drug and alcohol treatment services in the county is being cut.

In 2015/16, almost £5.2 million was spent on these services, but dropped to £4.7m in both 2016/17 and 2017/18.

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This financial year spending will fall to £4.6m, and is set to be sliced by a further £240,000 in 2019/20.

Suffolk County Council was not able to provide a comment by the time of going to print.

Tony Kimber, chief executive of Focus 12, a rehab centre in Bury St Edmunds, said the disparity in figures between west and east Suffolk could be down to their different financial demographics.

He said: “In Bury St Edmunds it’s fairly affluent, very middle class, and in town there’s not a lot else but in the east you have Ipswich which has more deprived areas and you have coastal and port towns where people can congregate, but it’s not to say alcohol addiction isn’t a problem in the west but I think it’s more hidden.”

More needs to be done to educate people on the dangers of alcohol, Mr Kimber said.

“Alcohol is probably the worst addiction we have, it’s far worse than opiates,” he added. “It affects more people and it costs the country more money yet it’s socially acceptable and legal.

“Alcohol is the big problem addiction and it truly is this society’s dirty little secret.”

Mr Kimber fears cuts to budgets will see a reduction in funded residential rehabilitation places.

Brian Tobin, chief executive of addiction support charity Iceni, based in Ipswich, said he was “sadly not surprised” by the rise in prescriptions in east Suffolk.

When asked about the reasons for the jump, Mr Tobin said more people were struggling with the “stresses of modern living” and the impacts of austerity, and also quoted the cheapness of alcohol.

Mr Tobin said cutting addiction services was a “false economy”.

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