ALCOHOL abuse could be a far bigger problem in Oxfordshire than many realise, according to experts.

Recent data from Public Health England revealed the number of people needing to be admitted to local hospitals either wholly or partly because of alcohol was on the increase.

However specialist nurses at the John Radcliffe Hospital have now said a lack of public awareness over safe drinking levels could mean that alcohol abuse is affecting more people than the figures show.

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Victoria Reeves, lead nurse on the OUH Alcohol Care Team, said her staff have dealt with 92 patients who have been categorised as drinking at a harmful level since they were introduced at Oxford University Hospitals in November.

However it is those who drink socially or casually who they are trying to reach, both for the health of the public and also to reduce the impact on the NHS.

She said: “Without a doubt, that is our biggest bracket of patients.

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Victoria Reeves and Michelle Layton of the John Radcliffe Hospital alcohol team.

“What we are seeing is people who have had indirect reasons to come to hospital, for example falls or fractures.

“When you get down to the nitty-gritty they are falling or having episodes because of the effects of alcohol.

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“I think there’s between 13 and 20 per cent admissions in Emergency Department (ED) that are alcohol related we certainly have a few patients who are frequent attenders.

“It has a massive impact on the trust, but also on long term conditions that are head and neck cancers, heart conditions, the list is endless really.”

The recommended intake of alcohol is 14 units per week, which is the equivalent to six pints of average strength beer or seven glasses of wine.

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Michelle Leyton, also part of the Alcohol Care Team team, said: “It’s about getting people to know what 14 units looks like.

“Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of what you drink and that’s a lot of what we do.

“We chat to patients, we explain to them what that looks like, then they can go away and make an educated decision.

“We are not there to tell patients what to do.”

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Alcohol-related hospital admissions in Oxfordshire increased to 10,832 during 2017/18, from 10,744 the year before.

The number has increased by 14 per cent across the county over the past 10 years, with alcohol misuse estimated to cost the NHS about £3.5 billion per year.

Ms Reeves said: “In general the public massively underestimate the number of units they consume on a daily basis.

“There are some people who quite easily drink four or five bottles of wine a week.”

Ms Reeves added: “There’s a significant lack of awareness of the recommended intake of alcohol and the damage it can do over a long period of time – it’s hugely underestimated.”