Have A&E admissions for alcohol poisoning doubled?

22 December 2015
What was claimed

A&E admissions for alcohol poisoning have doubled.

Our verdict

The attendance rate to A&E for alcohol poisoning has doubled over six years, according to research. This counts people regardless of what treatment they get and isn't the same as being admitted to a ward. Emergency admissions to a hospital ward due to alcohol have increased by over a half over a period of nine years.

"A&E admissions for alcohol poisoning double with teen girls most at risk"

ITV News, 22 December 2015

"Alcohol Poisoning A&E Admissions Double"

Sky News, 22 December 2015

"A&E visits for alcohol poisoning 'double in six years'

"…Emergency admissions due to the effects of alcohol, such as liver disease, have also risen by more than 50% in nine years"

BBC News, 22 December 2015

There have been some contradictory headlines this morning on visits and admissions to hospital due to alcohol. The articles are based on a new report from think tank the Nuffield Trust but appear to confuse the different sets of figures in the report.

The rate of people attending A&E in England with "probable alcohol poisoning" has doubled in six years, according to the Trust's report. These are people arriving at A&E, regardless of whether they are treated in A&E, receive no significant treatment or are admitted to a hospital ward.

Emergency admissions to hospital, when someone has been admitted to a hospital ward for treatment due to alcohol, have increased by over 50% in nine years. So emergency admissions due to alcohol have increased by over a half, rather than doubled. Not all these admissions are related to alcohol poisoning—patients being treated for alcohol induced liver and heart problems would be counted too, for example.

Teenage girls were most likely to visit A&E for probable poisoning, but were not most likely to be admitted as ITV claims—that distinction (for emergency admissions) belongs to men and women aged between 45 and 64. Similar claims were made by Sky, the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph.

Some of the articles make these distinctions clear in the body of their articles. Sky have since corrected their headline, after we got in touch. We'll be asking for corrections to the headline and text in the other articles where required.

Attendance rates have doubled over six years

From 2008/09 to 2013/14, A&E attendance rates likely to be due to alcohol poisoning doubled, from 73 in 100,000 people to 149 in 100,000 people. This is an increase of 105%.

From 2005/06 to 2013/14, emergency admissions specific to alcohol increased by 54%, from 375 in 100,000 people to 577 in 100,000.

The Trust said the attendances at A&E measure may include a small number of other types of poisoning.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.