Sunday, 21 October 2012

One for the Oldies, One for the Road and One Too Many?

I tripped over a guitar yesterday. I have 5 (although 1 is in my office). I hadn’t had a drink, it was just as I was clearing something away in my study, I stepped back and knocked one over and as I reached to rescue it from falling, I tripped over. Surrounded by guitars, I picked one up, tuned it and began to play. Now I don’t have a great repertoire, but I have some songs I know from the 1980s which was when I last played in earnest.

Like every wannabe rock star, I eventually I got to my Bob Dylan song selection in what (in my mind at least) is now an imaginary concert played in front of 1000s of fans at Wembley. ‘Knockin on Heavens Door’ is a favourite, a great standard, possible made more famous by Guns N’ Roses. It was one of their tracks on their debut album ‘Appetite for Destruction’ released in 1987. Axl Rose I am not, but yesterday I had fun nevertheless.

One of the other songs from this album was a song called ‘Nightrain’. It’s a song that was a tribute to an infamous brand of cheap Californian wine, 'Night Train Express', which was extremely popular with the band during their early days because of its low price and high alcohol content. I mention this fact as last week I was in Birmingham at the autumn meeting of the Council of Deans for Health. I travelled there by train and as I was travelling early evening, I purchased a lovely young Pinot Grigio from M+S (there are other retailers selling wine at train stations) to sip occasionally as the journey progressed. I saved some for the hotel room, which when I got there, had a panoramic view across the city.

And the wine was a good one too! As was the Council of Deans meeting. One of the many things we discussed was how each University was responding to the changing educational needs that were emerging as new (and often long term) health conditions are being identified. Some of these new health problems also have a long lead-in times before the disease becomes evident. For example obesity related diabetes, smoking related lung disease, and of course, health problems related to alcohol use over a prolonged period of time. For example, alcohol related dementia is a silent epidemic that could affect up to 80,000 people in the UK.

So it was good to see that last week Alcohol Concern published a so called 'alcohol harm map' which reveals the harm and cost of alcohol misuse across England. The map, which can be accessed at provides an interactive guide to your area highlighting how many people are drinking at harmful levels, the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions and alcohol-related healthcare costs for your local authority area.

According to the map, more NHS money is spent treating alcohol-related hospital admissions for the 55 to 74-year-olds (over £825m) in 2010/11 than that spent on the 16 to 24-year-old age group (£64m). According to the Office of National Statistics it is estimated that 6% of the population in England are dependent on alcohol, of which 9.3% are men and 3.6% women.

As I live in Bolton, I thought I would look to see what the statistics said about my neighbours and I. The information was very interesting. For example, alcohol-related admissions in Bolton cost £16.9m in 2010/11 which equates to £80 per adult. £3.6m was spent on the cost of A&E admissions, £10.7m on inpatient admissions, and £2.6m on outpatient admissions. In Bolton the number of deaths attributable to alcohol (all ages) in 2011 was 110 (74 men and 36 women). The statistics made sobering reading. I guess there must be a lot of people in Bolton already knock-knock-knockin' on heaven's door.