The impact of alcohol-related liver disease on the health service in Lancashire is revealed in newly released figures.
In the 12 months to March this year 655 people were admitted to hospital with the condition, according to Public Health England.
That means a rate of 56 patients admitted for every 100,000 residents in Lancashire, higher than the national average of 39 for England.
Liver experts at the Institute of Hepatology said the figures are “horrifying” and called on the Government to set a minimum price per unit of alcohol to discourage drinking.
Nationally, the rate ranges from ten per 100,000 in Sutton to 127 in Blackburn with Darwen.
The data shows that men are twice as likely as women to receive hospital treatment for this illness across the country.
Socioeconomic status is also a factor. The rate of alcohol-related liver disease admissions among the most deprived in society is 57 for every 100,000 people, but is below 29 for the most well off.
A spokesperson for Public Health England said: “Liver disease is one of the top causes of death in England and people are dying from it at younger ages. Most liver disease is preventable and much is influenced by alcohol consumption and obesity prevalence.”
In 2014, the Lancet Commission on alcohol-related liver diseases estimated that health problems caused by alcohol are costing the NHS £3.5 billion a year.
Prof Roger Williams, director of the Institute of Hepatology, proposed setting a minimum price per unit of alcohol to curb drinking.
“Liver disease mortality rates have increased about 600% in the last 50 years. That happens because alcohol consumption among the population has increased and this is linked to the fact that the costs of alcoholic drinks proportionally have fallen.
“Setting a minimum alcohol price is a highly effective way of dealing with the problem. In Canada, they had a 14% drop in emergency admissions and 8% drop in mortality in the first 12 months after setting this minimum.”
Scotland adopted this measure in May, setting a 50 pence minimum price per unit of alcohol. The Welsh Government is planning to implement the same lowest price next summer.
Judi Rhys, CEO of the British Liver Trust, called on GPs to improve their awareness of the risks.
She said: “Liver disease is a silent killer because there are often no obvious symptoms in the early stages. We know that at the moment three quarters of people are diagnosed in a hospital setting when the condition is quite advanced.
“GPs need to understand how to interpret the results of blood tests and clear pathways need to be commissioned so that they know who to refer and how to refer.
“There has also been an exponential increase in the supply of low price alcohol to the public with a growing range of cheap drink promotions in shops. More people drink at home and more people drink wine and spirits which have a much higher alcohol content.
“A common myth is that you have to be an alcoholic to damage your liver. The term alcoholic is misleading as alcohol dependency is a spectrum and more than one in five people in the UK currently drink alcohol in way that could harm their liver.”
The NHS says alcohol-related liver disease doesn’t usually cause any symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged. When that happens symptoms can include feeling sick, weight loss, loss of appetite and yellowing of the eyes and skin.