Sunday 23 September 2018 / 1:09 PM Jonathan Ashworth

Labour pledges fully staffed Alcohol Care Team in every district general hospital as new research reveals ‘stark inequalities’ in provision

Labour is today pledging to invest an additional £13.5 million to ensure all 191 district general hospitals in England have Alcohol Care Teams containing at least 3 staff.

New research by the Shadow Health Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth MP, reveals that at least 41 NHS Trusts across England do not currently have an Alcohol Care Team (ACT) in place.

Alcohol Care Teams are small teams of specialist staff who provide support for individuals admitted to hospital with alcohol problems. They play a critical role in reducing A&E attendances, length of stay, re-admissions, and ambulance call-outs.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions have increased by 17% over the past decade, while alcohol-related crime in the UK is estimated to cost up to £13bn per year.

According to Alcohol Research UK, ACT’s should have at least three staff members.

If every district general hospital had an ACT this would produce an estimated net saving of £36-42 million.

Ashworth’s intervention is one in a series of demands Labour will make of Ministers ahead of the publication of the NHS 10 year plan.

Ashworth has indicated that he will make tackling addiction and its impact on families a priority as Health Secretary, after choosing to speak out about his own personal circumstances growing up with an alcoholic father.

The announcement comes on the back of research by Labour last week which revealed substance misuse services are set to be slashed by £34 million, as part of the Government’s wider cuts to public health worth £800m by 2020/21. On current plans, 87 local authorities are set to cut adult treatment services for alcohol misuse between 2017/18 and 2018/19.

Labour’s research also found that the number of adults in alcohol treatment fell by over 11,000, or 12.2% between 2013/14 and 2016/17.

Unveiling Labour’s pledge at the Huffington Post’s Labour Party fringe event ‘In Conversation with Paul Waugh’, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, is expected to say:

“For too long addiction services have been left underfunded, overwhelmed and wholly underappreciated for the critical work they do in improving the lives of thousands of vulnerable people in our society.

“Alcohol Care Teams are proven to deliver substantial benefits and yet there are stark inequalities nationally in access to these services within hospitals. Having a fully resourced and staffed ACT in every district general hospitals is therefore long overdue.

“Labour will finally give addiction services the investment and political support needed to transform the lives of millions of individuals and their families suffering the consequences of substance misuse problems.”