WITH hundreds of people in York and North Yorkshire expected to sign up to Dry January, dedicated nurses at York Hospital work with people for whom alcohol and substance misuse has become a serious problem. Kate Liptrot reports on their work.

AS the festive party season comes to an end many people across the country will sign up to Dry January .

The Alcohol Concern campaign encourages people to take a month out from alcohol and enjoy the benefits of having a break from drinking.

For many people, the commitment will come following the excesses of the season, but for others drinking and substance misuse may have become a more serious problem. Figures from Alcohol Concern show 20 per cent of people in York are drinking at a level which increases the risk of damaging their health and last year there were 37,112 alcohol-related hospital admissions and attendances.

At York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust a specialist team help patients whose lives have been affected due to alcohol and drug misuse.

Louisa Morley and Frank Bowers, clinical nurse specialists, are based at York Hospital and deliver the Substance Misuse Liaison Service for the trust.

Their specialist knowledge and experience of looking after the physical, emotional and social needs of hospital patients with alcohol or drug problems means that these patients get the support and specialist management required.

Louisa said: “Many people with drug and alcohol problems find being in hospital very difficult. Some people end up in hospital as a result of their substance misuse but we also help patients who may have delayed having medical treatment for years because they don’t want to acknowledge their addiction.

“Because of our nurse training we can assess and advise on the nursing and medical management of patients drug or alcohol use in the hospital.

“Patients can be surprised to find that we can give them medication to help them cope in hospital and this often leads to patients working with us to help address their problems. It means we can provide information and onward referral and liaison with community services for future care.”

The team also provide education and training to hospital staff about the use of substances and related issues.

Louisa continued: “Patients attend hospital with a range of conditions, ranging from alcohol related liver disease, pancreatitis, cancer, cardiac problems, and accidental injury. Drug related issues such as vascular problems, local skin and systemic infections, overdose, and problems with drug and alcohol withdrawal are also common.

"Year on year we have had more referrals as staff on the wards find that we can offer help and advice.”

In 2012/13 there were 582 referrals made to the service, of these 279 referrals were made to community services for ongoing support and treatment after discharge.