Tuesday 21 April 2020

When in doubt, blame booze

Two stories in the media have had an interesting spin put on them.

Firstly, new figures show that violence-related casualty admissions fell by 6% in 2019 and have fallen by a remarkable 45% since 2010.

Fantastic news, but you can usually find some bad news if you dig deep enough and so the BBC has focused on a rise in admissions among people over the age of 50 and come up with this headline:

Alcohol fuels rise in assaults on over 50s, study suggests

The number of people in their 50s and 60s needing emergency hospital treatment after being assaulted is at its highest level for nine years.

But where does alcohol come into this? 

The authors of the study said although this was "difficult to explain" it was likely to reflect the "growing" levels of drinking among older people in England.

"Current cohorts of older people exhibited higher alcohol consumption levels in the past and may be continuing their relatively higher levels into older age," the study says.

"Since heavy binge drinking, and violence associated with it, were much more frequent three or four decades ago, it seems possible that this generational trait is also reflected in slowly increasing the risk of injury in violence."

In other words, there is no evidence that alcohol has 'fueled' a rise in admissions among this specific cohort. It's pure speculation.

Secondly, the Scottish Sun reports on the rise in non-COVID deaths in recent weeks. This has rightly been at the centre of the debate about the costs and benefits of the lockdown. With attendances at A & E plummeting, thousands of operations postponed and consultants seeing fewer people, people who are dangerously ill are not getting the care they need. 

It will be months, if ever, before we get to the bottom of what is going on, but our old friend Linda Bauld has already identified the suspect.

Coronavirus Scotland: Expert calls for booze BAN after shock spike in non-Covid-19 deaths during lockdown 

MINISTERS should limit or even ban booze sales after a shock rise in deaths not linked to Covid-19, a health expert claimed last night.

Professor Linda Bauld called on the Scottish Government to consider the drastic step after stats revealed more than 600 unexplained recent fatalities.

Shimmying over the word 'unexplained', Bauld gives her reasons for doing something that one suspects she has always wanted to do:

Prof Bauld, chair of public health at Edinburgh University’s prestigious Usher Institute, said tragedies linked to drink and drug abuse were likely to be a significant contributing factor to the figures.

She pointed to many support services for alcoholics and addicts being closed at present. And supermarket booze shelves being stripped bare suggests alcohol consumption has rocketed.

That's not how stockpiling works.

“Colleagues in drug and alcohol services in West Lothian tell me they are not able to see their clients in the usual way. They are not able to reach them.

“And unlike other countries such as South Africa and India that have banned the sale of alcohol, we’re still allowing it to be sold.”

South Africa and India, those world leaders in public policy.

Prof Bauld insisted a ban or limit on booze sales should still be considered.

She said: “It’s not too late to do that. It may seem a bit churlish and it won’t be very popular. But that is certainly one option.”

Go on. Try it. I dare you.

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