YORK'S booze culture - and its serious impact on the health of the city's residents - has been laid bare in a new report.

The report to City of York Council's Health and Wellbeing Board warns: "There are very few parts of civic society in York untouched by drug and alcohol issues."

It says that alcohol harm and misuse is a major issue in York, especially considering that most of the city's population generally live in relatively good health and see better outcomes on other health indicators.

"This can be seen across the whole alcohol ‘pathway’, from our average consumption levels to our hospital admissions and deaths," it says.

The report reveals that 21 people in York died in 2020 from conditions directly related to alcohol, and another 69 people died in 2020 from conditions indirectly related to alcohol.

It also reveals that:

  • More alcohol is sold in the city than the national average
  • The proportion of adults who abstain from drinking alcohol is lower than the national average.
  • There are more places selling alcohol per square metre than the average for England.
  • In the off-trade, for example supermarkets, the amount of alcohol sold per adult per year in York is 6.4 litres versus 5.4 litres in England as a whole.
  • In 2019/2020, the admission rate of York residents to hospital directly attributable to alcohol was 545 per 100,000 population in York versus 519 per 100,000 in England.

The report by Peter Roderick, Consultant in Public Health, outlines what is being done to help tackle the alcohol-related problems of York's residents.

It says the council’s Health Trainer service now offers up to six 1:1 support sessions around living healthily, including alcohol use, supporting clients to understand their alcohol use and set goals for reduction using a motivational interviewing approach.

It also says that, at the start of 2022, a new service commissioned by public health was being launched called ‘Changing Habits’, a pilot of an intensive primary-care based intervention for those people with harmful drinking levels which were not reaching the threshold for treatment and recovery services.

It says that at the 'higher-impact end of alcohol consumption,' about 400 adults required specialist alcohol treatment in York at any one time, through the York Drug and Alcohol Service provided by Changing Lives, including clinical interventions around managing withdrawal, psycho-social interventions, and access to day recovery and inpatient detox if required, as well as a positive and flourishing recovery community.

It adds that about 600 people in York were in treatment for drug use, including clinical interventions around opioid substitution, managing withdrawal, psychosocial interventions, and access to day recovery, as well as a positive and flourishing recovery community.

A meeting of York’s health and wellbeing board heard that minimum alcohol unit pricing and taxation were “the most effective and cost-effective approaches to reducing alcohol-related harm”, but national government policy prevents such measures.

The board agreed to write to the government to support minimum pricing.

Councillor Janet Looker said:  “I think we do have to recognise that it is a very significant issue in York. The hospital sees the consequences of excessive use of alcohol – daily, hourly in attendances at accident and emergency. You see it in the way people respond to health professionals. It has a huge impact across society.”

York Press: York GP Dr Emma Broughton, left, and Cllr Janet Looker

Mr Roderick said the government’s new ten year national drugs and alcohol strategy would see significant funding put back into local areas to tackle the problem, which would help make up for cuts made over the past decade.

He added: “We think spending for the York population around drugs and alcohol, particularly treatment and recovery, is likely to rise by about 40 per cent, which puts it probably back to where it was at the start of the 2010s.”

York GP Emma Broughton said ring fencing of funding was “absolutely needed” as drug budgets were often the first to be cut.

She added: “If you grow up in deprivation with drug and alcohol problems in your family, along with mental health and domestic violence, your opportunities and chances of life are markedly impaired, and therefore drugs may well be the thing you turned to to cope with the trauma and the harm that’s happened in your life.

“In my experience of working in York drug and alcohol services, that goes for the majority.”

The board agreed to sign the dual diagnosis pledge, which asks people to work with people’s mental health and addiction issues at the same time, rather than trying to treat them separately.