Almost two in five major traumas sustained by individuals across Scotland last year involved alcohol, new figures have revealed.
According to the Scottish Trauma Audit Group’s (STAG) annual report on the management of trauma patients north of the Border, involvement of alcohol was evident in 37 per cent of major trauma cases.
The figures come in the same week as researchers at the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh cited alcohol abuse as a primary factor in higher suicide rates in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK.
Last month, the Scottish Parliament passed a bill to implement a 50p minimum price for alcohol that could see cut-price products rise in price as soon as April next year.
The latest report, Audit of Trauma Management in Scotland 2012, contains validated data for 5,045 patients who, through the likes of assaults, falls, car accidents and accidental injuries, were admitted for at least three days or who died as a direct consequence of trauma last year.
“Information was collected for the first time in 2011 as to whether alcohol had been associated with the trauma,” said the report. “Results show that the likelihood of the involvement of alcohol rises in line with the severity of trauma sustained. The fact that alcohol was associated with almost 40% of major trauma is an alarming statistic.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Trauma care in Scotland is of a very high standard and this report shows that there has been an improvement in overall survival of trauma patients since the last audit period in 2002.
“However the report also shows the increasing involvement of alcohol in severe traumas, with alcohol associated with almost 40 per cent of incidents. This is far too high but the latest in a long line of statistics that show why we are so committed to tackling Scotland’s poor relationship with alcohol.
“That is why we have introduced the Minimum Unit Price, alongside this our alcohol framework outlines over 40 measures to reduce alcohol related harm by helping prevent problems in the first place and by improving support and treatment for those who are already experiencing problems.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman and Deputy Leader, Jackson Carlaw, labelled the figure “astonishing” and added: “The strong representations of A&E consultants and nursing staff were a key factor leading to Scottish Conservative support for alcohol minimum pricing, the principal benefit of which is expected to be a drop in acute admissions as a result of excessive alcohol consumption.
“However, these figures confirm the urgent need to look beyond alcohol minimum pricing – we have to accept that we have barely scratched the surface of the challenge faced.
“The cost of this to our NHS is huge, and given that it should be avoidable and that many other health challenges require to be faced, it is a cost we can no longer afford.”
STAG was established in 1991 to audit the management of seriously injured patients in Scotland. The last audit into trauma care coordinated by STAG concluded in 2002 after 11 years.