An extensive screening programme in Southampton is picking up alcohol-related hospital admissions that would be missed in other cities, health chiefs have been told.

Members of Southampton’s health and wellbeing board heard that the rate of admissions being recorded in the city was notably higher than the national average.

Public health consultant Charlotte Matthews told the board Southampton had an incredibly high need in relation to alcohol dependency, tobacco smoking and drug use.

Her report said latest estimates showed 26,541 adults smoked tobacco, 5,355 people were alcohol dependent, 1,734 people used opiates and, or, crack cocaine, and 1,706 children lived with an adult who was alcohol dependent.

Ms Matthews was providing the first update on the five-year Southampton City Council Tobacco, Alcohol and Drugs Strategy, which was enacted in January last year.

The latest data, which pre-dated the strategy and served as a baseline, found the rate of alcohol-related admissions in the city was 676.9 per 100,000 people – this compared to 493.9 per 100,000 across England.

Addressing this figure, Ms Matthews said: “Our alcohol data is complex. We look to have one of the highest admission rates in terms of alcohol-related admissions but actually, it is the model of care at UHS (University Hospital Southampton) and the good practice of screening all in-patients for alcohol needs that contributes to that.

“We suspect that we are simply good as a city at identifying the need that in other cities would go unidentified.”

Cllr Lorna Fielker asked if officials were sure this was the reason for the high admission rate.

Ms Matthews said: “We are confident that it plays a large part. What we are trying to continue to do is pin down and double-check that there is nothing else going on."

Cllr Peter Baillie, who is a community pharmacist, said the current smoking cessation programme was “by far the easiest and best” he had come across.

Ms Matthews highlighted positive steps that had been taken in relation to smoking over the past 12 months.

UHS was working to be smoke-free from next month. Solent and Southern Health NHS trusts had signed the NHS Smokefree Pledge, while two of Southampton’s primary care networks had been among the first in the country to also make this commitment.

Ms Matthews said ongoing changes to illicit drug supply internationally could alter trends in the city but no impact had been seen to date.

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