AnE visits for alcohol poisoning double in six years

Hospital visits for alcohol poisoning have doubled in six years- with the highest rate among females aged 15 to 19.

Hospital visits for alcohol poisoning have doubled in six years- with the highest rate among females aged 15 to 19.With the holiday season on us emergency admissions due to the effects of alcohol, such as liver disease, have also risen by more than 50% in nine years to 250,000 a year in England.

Rates were highest in deprived areas and in the north, and among men aged 45-64, the Nuffield Trust revealed.

The Nuffield Trust said their figures were an underestimate of the impact of drinking because they did not include alcohol -fuelled falls and fights, just illnesses such as alcohol poisoning and liver disease.

Nor do they count people who come to A&E drunk and are then sent home without being treated or admitted as a patient.

Half of all A&E attendances likely to be due to alcohol poisoning – when a person drinks a toxic amount of alcohol, usually over a short period of time – took place on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, peaking between midnight and 2am.

Three in four arrived by ambulance – putting a strain on already stretched resources, said the Nuffield Trust.

Young women aged 15 to 19 were admitted to hospital for alcohol poisoning 1.4 times as often as young men in the same age group.

A&E attendance rates that are likely to be due to alcohol poisoning and emergency hospital admissions linked to alcohol were three to four times higher in the poorest fifth of the population, the figures showed.

The report also reveals the number of people actually being admitted to hospital with alcohol-related problems, such as liver disease.

Men aged between 45 and 64 made up the largest share of this group.

Joint author of the report Claire Currie said: “With the Christmas party season in full swing, it’s worth considering the full burden over-indulgence in alcohol is placing on our NHS, as well as the obvious human cost.

“Our research has uncovered a picture of rising and avoidable activity in hospitals, representing a stark challenge for the Health Service at a time when it’s already great pressure. Hospitals alone cannot tackle this issue – the government must consider measures such as minimum unit pricing, restricting availability and limiting marketing and advertising.”

In England in 2013, approximately 18% of men and 13% of women drank at a level considered to be putting them at increased risk of harm.

In 2013/14, approximately 1 in 20 emergency admissions in England were related to alcohol.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics suggest binge-drinking among young adults in Britain is continuing to fall, and more than a fifth of UK adults now say they do not drink alcohol at all.

A government spokesman said: “People should always drink alcohol responsibly – very busy ambulance services and A&E staff can do without this extra demand.

“The government has taken action to tackle cheap alcohol by banning the lowest priced drinks and we are already seeing fewer young people drinking on a regular basis.”

Health Direct repeats the maxim- please drink moderately over the festive break.

Locum doctors increase risk of health problems

Figures from the General Medical Council (GMC) show that in the three-year period to 2013, locums working in the acute sector were attracting almost twice as many complaints as staff doctors.

Figures from the General Medical Council (GMC) show that in the three-year period to 2013, locums working in the acute sector were attracting almost twice as many complaints as staff doctorsThat amounted to more than 250 locums being complained about with the majority of those complaints result in a formal investigation.

“I do not want to demonise locums,” the GMC’s chief executive Niall Dickson said. “Lots of good doctors are doing lots of good locum work.”

But “locum work does attract risk,” he added. “It is risky in the sense that the doctor may not know enough about the hospital where he or she is working.

“It is risky in the sense that they may be brought in when the team is under considerable pressure, and it is risky in the sense that there may be some locum doctors who find it more difficult to find a permanent job. So it is an area where we have some concerns.”

Many locums are employed through medical recruitment agencies. It’s a fast-paced business where staff have to be found – sometimes at short notice – to cover for absences and busy periods.

The GMC says employers have to do more to verify the qualifications and competence of the locums they take on. In the summer, a court case highlighted concerns that some NHS trusts and agencies were not doing the most basic pre-employment checks.

Levon Mkhitarian was jailed for six years after impersonating a doctor. He’d worked as a locum in A&E departments, cardiology and cancer wards across south London and Kent for almost two years before finally being caught.

He used a false passport and other forged documents to assume a legitimate doctor’s identity. The recruitment agency that placed him in work failed to inspect the original documents – relying instead on photocopies, which masked the fact that had “cut and pasted” them together.

It’s estimated he dealt with more than 3,000 patients – although there was no evidence that he had harmed anyone.

Mkhitarian – who had a medical degree but had failed to complete his practical training – was eventually caught when a hospital security check revealed another doctor with the same details.

Mkhitarian had a history of using deception to get locum work. Back in 2010, he obtained provisional registration with the GMC, which allowed him to work with very close supervision.

He applied, and got, locum work requiring doctors with full registration – and that went on for three years because no-one was doing the simple check on his registration status.

When the GMC discovered he had lied about his registration, he was struck off. At that point, he stole a legitimate doctor’s identity.

For Mr Dickson, the Mkhitarian case stands as a stark reminder to vet doctors before they get on to the wards.

“If someone turns up brandishing a GMC number – that does not mean they’re fit to practice,” he said.

“A GMC stamp is not good enough for anyone to say, ‘Oh, that’s alright – I don’t need to do anything.’ There are responsibilities that agencies, and responsibilities that employers, have.”

The regulator has now introduced a system of revalidation – requiring the performance of all doctors, including locums, to be regularly assessed.

The Department for Health said: “We want the NHS to be the safest healthcare system in the world and we expect all employers to carry out appropriate pre-employment checks to make sure their doctors are fit to provide safe patient care.”

Overseas patients to be charged for emergency healthcare

Foreign patients could be charged for emergency treatment under new government plans for the NHS in England.

Foreign patients could be charged for emergency treatment under new government plans for the NHS in EnglandVisitors from outside the European Economic Area already pay for planned hospital care. The EEA covers the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to save the NHS millions of pounds by extending the charges to A&E care. A consultation is expected to be set up in the next few weeks.

Overseas visitors can currently receive A&E treatment, ambulance services and GP visits free of charge, but if the plans go ahead some treatment could be withheld until fees are paid.

The Department of Health said exemptions would be put in place for refugees and asylum seekers, and pregnant women would not be turned away from maternity units if they had not paid upfront.

A department spokesman said: “International visitors are welcome to use the NHS, provided they pay for it – just as families living in the UK do through their taxes.”

“This government was the first to introduce tough measures to clamp down on migrants accessing NHS care and have always been clear we want to look at extending charges for non-EEA migrants.”

“No-one will be denied urgent treatment and vulnerable groups will continue to be exempt from charging.”

All visitors to the UK and British expats are charged 150% of the cost of non-emergency NHS treatment in order to discourage people travelling to the UK just to use health services – so-called “health tourism”.

The latest crackdown is expected to reclaim around £500 million.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Emergency Medicine told the newspaper that A&E doctors “cannot reasonably be expected to take on the burden of identifying who is eligible for free treatment, and who should be charged”.

The British Medical Association agreed, saying: “A doctor’s duty is to treat the patient in front of them, not to act as border guard. Any plans to charge migrants and short-term visitors need to be practical, economic and efficient.”

In April new rules came into force which mean non-EU citizens settling in the UK for longer than six months are required to pay a “health surcharge” as part of their visa applications.