CHILDREN as young as ten are being rushed into hospital after boozing on alcohol.
Doctors say the problem has got so bad that many youngsters are being taken into casualty unconscious, with some left fighting for their lives in intensive care.
As the shocking extent of the city’s drink problem is laid bare, figures reveal more than 100 children a year aged under 16 are being treated in hospital for alcoholic-related problems.
Southampton has become one of the worst places in the country for under-age boozing, with more than ten per cent of schoolchildren experimenting with drink and drugs.
NHS Southampton City ranks as having one of the highest hospital admissions of under-18s with alcohol-related issues, coming 145th out of 152 primary care trusts in England in research by the North West Public Health Observatory.
Southampton General Hospital’s emergency wards are dealing with nine youngsters a month who are risking their lives by binge-drinking on beers, wines and spirits.
Dr Sarah Robinson, consultant in emergency medicine, sees the alarming scale of the problem on a daily basis. She told the Daily Echo: “We are definitely seeing more young people coming to the emergency department because they have drunk too much – and they are getting younger.
“It is predominantly the 15 and 16-year-olds but more and more we are seeing 11 and 12- year-olds and during the summer holidays we had a tenyear- old who was brought in very drunk. It is a new phenomena and it is a huge concern for us because we know the dangers but unfortunately young people are continuing to risk their lives in this way.”
Figures from the 2009 Tellus4 survey highlighted Southampton as an under-age drinking hotspot, revealing 10.7 per cent of schoolchildren were experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
This puts Southampton above the national average and the regional south-east average of 9.8 per cent, making the city the worst in the region.
Dr Robinson added: “At one end of the scale we have those who come in with broken bones after falling over drunk and at the other end we have those who are deeply unconscious, which can be lifethreatening.
It can be as serious as that.”
Drive to fight the problem
IN a bid to curb under-age drinking, health bosses have launched a free support line for parents worried about children’s drinking habits.
Young people can also get free support and confidential counselling at the city’s DASH service. Dr Andrew Mortimore, pictured, director of public health for Southampton, said: “Alcohol use among those under 18 is an issue which NHS Southampton City takes very seriously and clearly when it occurs among children it is very alarming.
“Together with Southampton City Council, NHS Southampton City is working on a series of preventative measures to not only reduce the number of emergency admissions in those under 18, but to combat the trend in under-age alcohol use.
“Outreach workers also visit schools to educate young people about the harmful effects of alcohol and how to keep themselves safe.
Through this we hope to reduce the damage caused by alcohol to young people in our city.”
■ Parents can call the free support line on 023 8039 9764.
For the city’s DASH services call 023 8022 4224 or email ask@dash southampton.co.uk.