Health chiefs fear demand for specialist alcohol treatment services is set to rise across Perth and Kinross after witnessing an increase in patients seeking help during the pandemic.
During the summer months the area saw a three year high in the number of people referred to specialists for alcohol problems.
Clare Mailer, chairwoman of the local authority’s Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP), laid out her concerns for councillors in a report to go before the Integration Joint Board this week.
She said: “Numbers of referrals for specialist substance misuse services in Perth and Kinross for alcohol treatment have seen considerable increases between quarters one and two of 2020/21.
“In quarter one there were 92 referrals for alcohol treatment and in quarter two there were 144.
“In context quarter the is the highest quarterly number of referrals for alcohol treatment for the past three years.”
The health chief believes the region will continue to see a higher rate of people seeking help in the near future.
“Nationally over 1 million people have reported drinking more since the
pandemic began,” said Ms Mailer.
“The data available therefore indicates that while there have
been reductions in the number attending acute services, people are
increasingly requiring specialist support with their alcohol use and demand is
likely to increase in the coming months.”
Findings show that more people are seeking specialist services for alcohol rather than attending hospital with the number of patients turning up in the emergency department falling during lockdown.
Across Tayside those seeking hospital treatment during lockdown for both drugs and alcohol fell drastically despite the need increasing for specialist services.
Ms Mailer said: “The Tayside picture shows that alcohol related emergency department attendances up to the end of September 2020 are around 900 fewer compared to 2019.
“However, lockdown saw a significant reduction in emergency department attendances for all causes that lasted for about six weeks.
“Thereafter the number of alcohol related attendances continued to rise weekly until mid-July.”
Ms Mailer warned alcohol remains a “significant contributor” to hospitalisations.
There has also been an increase in drug deaths across the region since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Up to September this year there have been 23 notifications of suspected drug
deaths in Perth and Kinross. including Perth Prison, compared to 20
suspected drug death notifications for 2019 as a whole.