Report highlights NHS contribution to tackling alcohol-related violence in North East England

Wednesday, 29 June, 2011

The NHS is playing an increasingly important role in tackling alcohol-related violence in the North East of England, according to research commissioned by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office.

A&E staff at hospitals across the region - which include University Hospital of North Durham, Darlington Memorial Hospital, University Hospital of North Tees and University Hospital in Hartlepool - have been gathering information anonymously from people who have been involved in alcohol-related assaults to establish in more detail the impact of alcohol misuse.

As part of an ongoing regional information sharing project, A&E staff have been recording where and when an incident took place and whether a weapon was used. The information has been shared with the police and other partners to help them target 'hotspots' in a bid to reduce alcohol-related violence and reduce A&E admissions and the North East is one of the most advanced areas in the country.

Findings from the project to date include:
• Only 66 % of alcohol related assaults that attend A&E In Durham and Darlington are reported to the police

• The number of male victims attending A&E in Durham and Darlington is more than double that known to the police

• 56 % of assaults attending A&E in Hartlepool are alcohol-related

• 19 % of assaults in Hartlepool are not reported to the police

• 22 % of domestic assaults which attend A&E in Hartlepool are not reported to the police.

It is the first time the project has been implemented region-wide in the UK. It is led by Balance, the North East Alcohol Office and local Community Safety Partnerships including Safer Stockton Partnership and Safer Hartlepool Partnership, which involve local authorities, the police, the health service and other key agencies.

Sue Taylor, Partnerships Manager at Balance said: "These findings highlight the fact that excess alcohol consumption fuels violent crime, increasing the likelihood that North Easterners will be involved in an assault - either as the perpetrator or the victim.

"The widespread availability and affordability of alcohol is to blame - and we need to address these issues to reduce 'second hand harm' caused by alcohol misuse.

"A big problem we face is pre-loading - or drinking copious amounts of alcohol to prepare for a night out. People are hitting our towns and cities already drunk - and some are ready to fight. This is putting an unnecessary burden on our A&E Departments, but by collecting and sharing assault data, the NHS is playing a really important role in tackling alcohol-related violence at its source."

John Stoddart, Chief Constable for Durham Constabulary and lead for Alcohol and Harm Reduction for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: "Working in partnership with the NHS has improved our ability to really understand the impact that alcohol has on violent crime, both on our streets and in our homes.

"Alcohol and alcohol-fuelled violence have a widespread impact on our communities, not only through the direct consequence of violent behaviour, but also through hidden harm to our children and future generations. Initiatives in improving our understanding of these issues, such as this work being undertaken by the A&E departments, really assists in helping focus our response to alcohol-related violent crime issues, and in working with the community and partners to tackling the causes at their root."

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