Consultation on the methods used to estimate alcohol-related hospital admissions for England has been opened by the North West Public Health Observatory (NWPHO).
It was announced that the hospital admissions data would be reviewed when the Public Health Outcomes Framework was released earlier this year, stating 'the preferred option is for an indicator based on just alcohol-related primary diagnoses, to minimise the risk of perverse consequences from any changes in coding practice so the indicator rewards local areas for good performance.'
Hosptial admissions data was formerly used to monitor 'National Indicator (NI) 39' performance under 'Local Area Agreements' (LAA). However LAAs were scrapped under the Government's Localism agenda, although areas can still monitor hospital admissions data through the Local Alcohol Profiles for England (LAPE) site and are reviewed in the annual national alcohol statistics.
The Morning Advertiser reported that the trade is concerned that such data influences Government alcohol policies. Kate Nicholls, strategic affairs director at the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers said "Too often in the past we have seen alcohol-related statistics over-stated and over-played or used as a public health political football."
Concerns may reflect alcohol-related admissions figures which now top over a million attributable admissions per year, attracting media headlines. Primary alcohol diagnosis admissions are however less than 200,000 per year. Alcohol-related admissions account for the impact of conditions such as hypertension where alcohol misuse plays a significant role in many cases.
The consultation document states:
The aim is to engage with the users about the methods used to construct the estimates to ensure that the figures remain relevant, easy to interpret and meaningful.
The consultation has been driven by an improved understanding of the methodological issues associated with estimating alcohol-related admissions and, linked to that, the inclusion within the Public Health Outcomes Framework of an alcohol-related admissions indicator and the need to ensure this indicator is the best available for that purpose.
The consultation will run for 12 weeks from 31st May 2012 to 23rd August 2012. A response form can be downloaded from www.lape.org.uk/downloads/response.doc.