An action plan that will look to create a safe drinking culture in St Helens has been approved.
In 2017-18, there were 1,909 hospital admissions in St Helens that had diagnoses caused wholly by alcohol, which is twice the national average and the fifth highest rate in England.
A St Helens Council report has revealed that alcohol specific admissions 2017-18 cost the NHS £3.4 million.
In addition, there was an estimated 1,653 alcohol-related violent incidents in St Helens in 2017.
Tackling alcohol harm has been a priority for the local authority for a number of years.
For 2019-20, a draft, multi-agency strategy has been developed by the Alcohol Harm Reduction partnership, which is led by the council’s Public Health department.
The partnership also includes representation from key agencies such as Community Alcohol Service (CGL), St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, Merseyside Police and social care and voluntary organisations including Salvation Army, YMCA, Citizens Advice and Footsteps.
Sue Forster, the council’s director of Public Health, presented the draft strategy to the People’s Board.
The strategy will focus on three key themes: prevention and early intervention, treatment and recovery and enforcement and control.
For prevention and early intervention, Ms Forster said Public Health intends to focus its campaigns around targeting children and young people and specific high-risk groups.
Between 2014-15 to 2016-17, the rate of hospital admissions for young people under 18 years was the second highest in England and triple the national rate.
Alcohol is also much more likely to be identified as a risk factor in children’s social care assessments in St Helens than for the North West and England.
Ms Forster said Public Health want to reduce the “stigma” around accessing services and “upping the ante” with its digital offering.
Professor Sarah O’Brien, the council’s strategic director of peoples services and clinical accountable officer for St Helens CCG, suggested focusing on three key issues from the strategy for the coming year.
Prof O’Brien said: “It’s very thorough, but have we got too much in there? Are we better saying, these are the three things we’re going to do this year around alcohol?
“So, three really clear things we could impact and see an impact on. There is quite a lot here.
“The danger is, when you put with all the other plans we have to do, do we lose a bit of focus?”
Ms Forster said the council will highlight three things the council should focus on that might make the biggest difference and bring that back to the next meeting of the People’s Board.
Council leader Derek Long added: “This is an issue which we’ve been aware of and engaging with for a long time now.
“It shows again the intractable nature of some of these problems and how they interact with deprivation and how they generate deprivation as well. So, it’s quite a challenging thing.
“We will be bringing this back in terms of progress and steps we’re taking on it. We take it very, very seriously.”