Press release

Alcohol treatment system continues to perform well but there is more to be done

The system for treating alcohol dependence among adults in England is performing well overall for those accessing services.

Beer in a glass

According to the latest annual statistics released by Public Health England (PHE), more people came forward for specialist treatment in 2012 to 2013 and the number who successfully completed their treatment continued to increase. Waiting times also continued to improve.

Alcohol misuse is a major public health priority. Around nine million adults in England drink at levels that pose some risk to their health. An estimated 1.6 million people have some degree of alcohol dependence and of these, some 250,000 are believed to be moderately or severely dependent and require intensive treatment from specialist services.

Currently there are around 110,000 people in specialist alcohol treatment. While the number of new clients entering treatment is increasing year on year, it is vital to continue to widen the availability and accessibility of specialist support to all who can benefit.

Public Health England Director of Alcohol and Drugs Rosanna O’Connor said:

Tackling alcohol misuse is a top priority for Public Health England. The specialist treatment system continues to work well for many people, however, there is more to be done. Local authorities now have responsibility for commissioning alcohol services to meet the identified need in their areas. It is vital in tackling the effects on both health and crime that alcohol treatment is easily accessible, that the full range of effective NICE-recommended treatment options is available, and that treatment services are properly joined up with the NHS and other partners including mutual aid groups.

In terms of the challenges we face, today’s figures only present a small part of the picture. The health problems and costs associated with alcohol misuse are rising year on year. Prevention is better than cure, and PHE is working to support a range of initiatives, including: identification of those who are at risk and provision of advice by health and social care professionals; improvements in hospital-based alcohol services; and the use by local authorities of local health information to inform licensing decisions. The drive to reduce alcohol-related harm has the potential to both improve health and reduce crime in our communities.

The national statistics and trends are analysed in the report Alcohol treatment in England 2012 to 2013. Key findings include:

  • 109,683 people received alcohol treatment in 2012 to 2013, up from 108,906 the year before. This includes 75,773 new clients entering treatment during the year, a rise of 2% compared to 2011 to 2012
  • 40,908 people (58%) successfully completed their treatment, 1% more than in the previous year
  • most people (40%) referred themselves into treatment; 18% were referred by their GP
  • 71% of all those in alcohol treatment were concentrated in the 30 to 54 age range and the average age of a person in treatment was 42
  • men accounted for nearly two thirds of the treatment population during the year
  • most people in treatment were White British (87%); no other ethnic group accounted for more than 3% of the treatment population

Notes to editors

  1. Public Health England’s mission is to protect and improve the nation’s health and to address inequalities through working with national and local government, the NHS, industry and the voluntary and community sector. PHE is an operationally autonomous executive agency of the Department of Health.
  2. Full information on the 2012 to 2013 treatment statistics

Photo courtesy mandolux under creative commons.

PHE Alcohol and drugs press office

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Published 16 October 2013