Hospital alcohol liver disease care 'lacking'

  • 14 June 2013
  • From the section Health
Glass of beer
Image caption Alcohol-related liver problems are on the rise

Hospitals are missing chances to save the lives of patients with alcohol-related liver disease, a watchdog says.

The report by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome Death said the NHS should be doing more to help these patients at an early stage.

Most patients who died from the disease visited hospital at least once in the two years prior to their death.

But many failed to get the help they needed, the review of care in England, Wales and Northern Ireland concluded.

The warning comes as the number of cases of liver disease is rising - hospital admissions now total nearly 200,000 a year, up 40% in a decade.

The National Confidential Enquiry (NCEPOD) looked at 200 hospitals and more than 300 patients who had died from alcohol-related liver disease.

Too few patients had been referred to support services or screened for serious problems such as sepsis, according to the study.

Overall, just 47% of patients were judged to have received good care, and 32 deaths could have been avoided, it concluded.

It pointed out that consultant hepatologists - liver experts - were present in only 28% of hospitals, while just 23% had dedicated alcohol-care teams to provide comprehensive support.

Report co-author Dr Mark Juniper said: "Many people with alcohol-related liver disease have multiple admissions with this condition.

"This gives clinicians an ideal opportunity to offer appropriate treatment and advice to patients to help them stop drinking and improve their future health.

"Unfortunately, this isn't happening."

An NHS England spokeswoman said the findings were "worrying".

"We would expect all NHS service providers to use the recommendations as an internal benchmarking process to consider their own deficiencies and began to correct them."

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