St Helens has the highest rate of hospital admissions linked to drug poisoning in England, new NHS data has revealed.
Data from 2018-19 published by NHS Digital shows there were 95 admissions per 100,000 population with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by drug misuse.
This was the highest in England, followed by Middlesbrough (91) and Blackpool (80).
The rate of hospital admissions in women was the highest in the country, with 97 per 100,000 population, while the rate in men (93) was the second highest behind Middlesbrough (113).
Nationally, 18,053 people in England were admitted to hospital for poisoning related to drug misuse in 2018-19.
The primary diagnosis in 9,486 of those cases was poisoning from opioids, excluding heroin and opium.
St Helens has one of the highest levels of opioid prescribing in the country, although there is no evidence to suggest a direct link between this and the high rate of drug poisoning.
A spokesman for St Helens CCG said: “In St Helens we have a high number of people who suffer from chronic illnesses and should have regular reviews of the medication they are prescribed.
“We are working closely with primary care prescribers and with our colleagues in public health and across the wider system to jointly tackle the reasons that result in people taking prescription medication such as opioids.
“We recommend prescribers regularly review the use of these medications and seek any suitable alternative solutions for their patients.”
According to the NHS Digital data, which was published last week, the total number of hospital admissions in St Helens with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by drug misuse was 160.
This was a small rise from the 140 admission the previous year.
In addition, last year there were 765 NHS hospital admissions in St Helens where there was a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders.
Of that figure, 550 were male and 215 were female.
This is a small rise from 2017-18, where there were 720 hospital admission of this kind in St Helens.
However, last year’s figures are a huge rise compared to 2013-14, where there were 443 hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders.
Looking at nearby local authorities, in Knowsley in 2018-19 there were 545 hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug related mental and behavioural disorders.
This is a small increase on the previous year and a 44 per cent increase when compared to 2013-14 (379).
Nationally, in 2018-19 there were 96,705 hospital admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders.
This is a small increase from the 86,966 admission of this kind in 2017-18 and a massive 139 per cent increase from the 42,170 admissions in 2013-14.
Kenny Lomas , Local Democracy Reporting Service