BLEAK new figures have painted Hartlepool as one of the worst towns in the country for alcohol problems.
New statistics released yesterday by Public Health England showed the town ranks 319th out of 326 local authorities for its levels of alcohol-related hospital admissions among men during 2012-13.
Statistics show around 840 men a year were taken into hospital for a drink-related issue during the 12-month period.
It’s not much better among women either. Hartlepool was 307th out of 326 authorities for the same problem, with 330 women admitted.
And even among the town’s under-18s, the number of youths being rushed into hospital with alcohol-related issues (a total of about 70) puts the town 303rd out of 326th authorities.
There is some good news.
Statistics show the problem is, if anything, easing slightly from a year earlier when the figures were even higher.
But the latest study prompted a promise that the figures would be closely looked at in Hartlepool – and acted upon.
Stephen Akers-Belcher, the vice chairman of the audit and governance committee in Hartlepool, said: “Despite a lot of good work from public health experts, it seems that the message is not getting through.”
He said one of the big issues was: “People don’t accept the levels of units they are taking and there is a big problem with binge drinking.”
He added: “If people are using risky behaviour in their drinking it is going to have an impact.
“These figures are not just telling us a story of today, they are painting a picture of what is to come in the future, especially with young people.
“We need to scrutinise this report very closely and also look at how we can work to tackle these issues.”
The North-East continues to suffer from some of the highest rates of alcohol harms.
Colin Shevills, director of the region’s alcohol awareness group Balance, said: “Alcohol is costing us our health, using valuable NHS resources which could be spent treating other patients and costing the North-East economy millions each year.
“The fact is that too many people are drinking too much too often and it is having a devastating impact on the region. This is driven by alcohol that is too cheap, too widely available and too heavily marketed.”
Coun Akers-Belcher told of his fears that NHS resources were being used up on alcohol-related issues. “It is worrying from an admission and from a resources point of view.
“This report will come to us and there needs to be a lot of work to see what we can do.”
Hartlepool needs to look at authorities which are performing well in the league tables, he said. “Is there a cultural or some other difference.
“ It doesn’t paint Hartlepool in a good light but we have to learn from this report.”