Councils need to take quick action on dealing with alcohol-related conditions, top addiction specialists have warned.

It comes as new figures show significant increases in the number of people from south-east London and north Kent presenting to hospitals with conditions linked to booze.

According to statistics from Public Health England, there have been year-on-year increases on the number of patients from Greenwich, Bexley, Lewisham and Dartford being admitted to hospitals due to afflictions caused by consuming alcohol.

Lewisham saw the highest increase of admissions in these four areas as 5,043 patients were admitted into hospital with alcohol-related afflictions in 2017, an increase of 494 on the year previous.

In the same year, 4,873 patients were admitted to hospital in Greenwich - an increase of 435 on the previous year.

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Bexley saw an increase of 366 patients with similar conditions, with 4,599 admitted in total.

Finally, Dartford saw an increase of 131 patients presenting with alcohol-related conditions, with 2,039 being admitted in total.

Bromley, in contrast, saw a decrease where 5,407 patients were admitted compared to the 5,418 who were treated in 2016.

Speaking on the latest figures, CEO of addiction treatment specialists UKAT, Eytan Alexander said local authorities need to "listen to the numbers" and admit these increases "cannot go on for another year."

"The numbers speak for themselves; thousands of people across the south east hospitalised because of alcohol and worse still, staggering rises in alcohol-related deaths.

"It's time to admit that there is a problem here, and we call on councils to make better budget decisions this coming April and to invest more of their public health grant into local drug and alcohol treatment services, as well as early intervention and awareness campaigns in order to support those most vulnerable," he said.

Aside from the increasing number of patients being admitted across south-east London, a number of boroughs have also seen increases in the number of alcohol-related deaths.

Bexley is at the top end of this morbidity scale, with 89 fatalities in 2017 compared to 76 deaths in 2016.

The neighbouring borough of Greenwich also saw an increase in alcohol-related deaths, with a recorded 81 in 2017.

In Dartford, 41 patients died under similar circumstances compared to 40 in 2016.

Bromley also saw a small increase in alcohol-related deaths in 2017 where 122 people died compared to 120 in the year previous.

In contrast, Lewisham saw a reduction in alcohol-related deaths as only 85 patients died in 2017, compared to 92 who died in 2016.

What's being done

A spokeswoman for Bexley Council said: "We recognise that alcohol consumption is a contributing factor to hospital admissions and deaths costing our NHS about £3.5 billion per year and society as a whole £21 billion annually.

"Our substance misuse treatment system was reconfigured in 2017 to ensure a greater focus on early identification and interventions with the specific aim of reducing hospital admissions and alcohol dependence over the longer-term.

"We plan to further enhance our service with a focus on prevention and early intervention for those who are identified as most at-risk."

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For Greenwich, cabinet member for adult social care and health, Cllr Averil Lekau said: "As the population ages, people who drink alcohol may start to experience the lifetime effects of this consumption in a number of ways, often relating to liver, kidney or cardiac issues and some types of cancers, which all require hospital treatment.

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Greenwich Councillor Avril Lekau

"We are promoting safer drinking levels across the borough and are currently running a nine-week roadshow, where members of the public can get tips and support on how to reduce their drinking habits.

"We are also working with NHS Greenwich CCG and other partners to improve patient outcomes, particularly in relation to substance misuse.

"We are aware that the government is set to release a new alcohol strategy and although the date is yet to be confirmed, we know there are a number of national actions that could help reduce alcohol-related harm, and we would welcome the introduction of minimum unit pricing of alcohol as one of these actions."

Speaking on Lewisham's figures, deputy mayor and cabinet member for health and adult social care, Chris Best said: “We work closely with Lewisham CCG and partners to ensure that alcohol-related harm in the borough, including hospital admissions, are minimised.

"We know there is a growing and ageing population that is more likely to develop conditions related to alcohol consumption that require hospital treatment and it’s likely this has contributed to the increase in the number of admissions.

"We have a number of measures in place to tackle the effects of alcohol misuse. They include our public protection teams and public health working collaboratively in relation to licensing applications to ensure residents are protected from any harm related to licensed premises in the borough.

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Deputy Mayor of Lewisham, Cllr Chris Best

"Also the Lewisham Health Improvement training programme runs a number of free courses, available to those who work or volunteer in the borough, which focus on alcohol awareness and providing related advice.

"Our community substance misuse service provides two specialist nurses – funded by the Council – who work in Lewisham Hospital and ensure patients are adequately supported in the community after they are discharged.

"They also provide a range of interventions that include community and inpatient detoxification and referral to residential rehabilitation.

"We want all our residents to live long, healthy lives and, together with our partners, will continue to do everything we can to achieve this."

Meanwhile, director of public health for Bromley, Dr Nada Lemic, argued there was actually a decrease in the borough's alcohol-related mortality rate.

"Although the number of alcohol-related deaths has gone up slightly from 120 to 122, the actual rate per 100,000 of the population has gone down slightly from 38.9 to 38.8.

"Absolute numbers are never a good indicator as they do not take into account the size of the population," said Dr Lemic.

Dartford Council did not respond to requests for a comment.