Swanswell calls for urgent action after MPs highlight a lack of strategy to tackle liver disease in the UK

26 March 2014

A new report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Hepatology Group, raises concern over the lack of a national strategy for liver disease, which has the potential to become the UK’s biggest killer within a generation.

The national recovery charity, which wants to achieve a society free from problem alcohol and drug misuse, supports the group’s report Liver Disease: Today’s Complacency, Tomorrow’s Catastrophe, and believes a liver disease strategy for the UK is vital in helping tackle this preventable disease.

There is an unnecessary rise in liver disease across the country. People are at risk of alcoholic liver disease if they regularly or intermittently drink to excess. It can take a number of years to develop and sufferers may not experience any symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged, leading to serious illness.

It’s been found that admissions for alcohol-related liver diseases across all ages in England increased from 25,706 in 2002/03 to 49,456 in 2011/12 – a rise of 92%, yet worryingly, we don’t have a long-term plan in place to help stop this avoidable disease.          

Swanswell believes better education and clearer information around the harms of problem alcohol use will help future generations make informed decisions about alcohol use, and avoid unhealthy drinking behaviour.

Debbie Bannigan, Swanswell’s Chief Executive, said: ‘The facts in this report are a stark reminder that something needs to be done urgently to tackle liver disease caused by alcohol misuse and that we need a strategy and measures like minimum pricing to come in sooner rather than later.

The figures highlight that alcohol-related illnesses, like liver disease, don’t discriminate and it doesn’t matter how old you are, drinking irresponsibly can still  have a big impact on your health.

‘Problem alcohol use costs the economy around £21 billion a year to deal with, including up to £3.5 billion in NHS costs and billions more dealing with related crime, lost working hours and other associated problems. The Government needs to work together with our health and education systems to tackle this growing problem, so that we can see healthier future generations. Providing a national strategy for liver disease would be a leap in the right direction.

Ultimately, we all have a part to play in tackling liver disease – it’s not something any government, organisation or individual can do on their own.’

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