Tuesday, 3 May 2011

The British Medical Association talking rubbish about drinking again!

I’m going to say it because it is a self-confirming piece of research* – the BMA are at it again:

Dr Alan McDevitt, deputy chairman of the BMA's Scottish General Practitioners Committee, said: "Those who suffer from alcohol related health problems are not just alcoholics or heavy binge drinkers. By regularly drinking over and above recommended limits, a significant proportion of the adult population is at risk of experiencing health problems that are linked to the alcohol they consume whether it is high blood pressure, breast cancer or even domestic abuse.

"In just one day, nurses and doctors working in general practices across Scotland saw more than 5500 patients where alcohol had contributed to their ill health. But the patients seen in general practice are just the tip of the iceberg. The impact of alcohol misuse across the rest of the NHS, in hospitals and in our communities is far greater."

What we need to understand is that these dreadful statistics are collected by doctors and nurses. And they are rising because those doctors and nurses are told to ask, again and again, about patients’ drinking.

When my son was mugged in Bradford City centre – hit on the head with a hammer – he was taken to Bradford Royal Infirmary. And, dear reader, do you know what the first question asked of him by the nurse was (once he came round enough to answer) – you’ve guessed it: “have you been drinking.”

And, when a doctor finally got around to seeing him – and bear in mind he had a serious head injury – what was the first question that doctor asked? You’re right, it was “have you been drinking.” You see a pattern emerging here don’t you. A pattern reinforced by a huge image of a glass of wine plastered on the wall.

My son needed a specialist face doctor. And – if it wasn’t so crazy, you’d laugh – the first thing that doctor asked was “have you been drinking.”

And, since my son had been drinking – he’d been into town to a pub quiz with his mates – I’m pretty sure that him being hit on the head by a nasty thug has gone down in the books at ‘partly alcohol related’. That is why, despite alcohol consumption falling significantly over the past 10 years, we have this terrible, awful rise in ‘alcohol-related’ ill-health. It is a self-fulfilling activity – the more you require doctors and nurses to ask patients whether they drink (mostly for no good medical reason), the more you identify ‘alcohol-related’ ill-health.

And it’s not a problem for the young either – the fall in consumption has been greatest among the 16-24 age group whether you look at exceeding “recommended” limits or “heavy” drinking.

On the average weekly measure, heavy drinking is defined as consuming more than 50 units a week for men and consuming more than 35 units a week for women. In the 16 to 24 age group there were significant falls, between 2000 and 2006, in the proportion of men and women drinking heavily (from 14 per cent to 7 per cent for men and from 9 per cent to 5 per cent for women).

And the fall has continued since 2006 - even under a new methodology for measuring alcohol consumption. So perhaps one of these clever doctors could explain why it is that, with heavy drinking falling so rapidly, there is an increase in ‘alcohol-related’ ill-health. It makes no sense and I simply don’t believe a word of what the BMA are saying, not one word.

*The "study" collected and added up raw figures from just 31 GP practices - no consistent methodology, no back check, no patient data. Pretty poor really.

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