In the Bradford district it’s estimated that there are around 92,000 people drinking at increasing risk levels. Of these 17,000 are calculated to be drinking at higher risk levels that could lead to physical or psychological harm. 15,000 people are physically dependent upon alcohol. Suddenly stopping alcohol can be very dangerous. The Alcohol Care Team offer support and can refer into treatment that sees people do this safely.
In 2014/15 over 27,000 people attending Bradford Royal infirmary’s A&E department had their alcohol use assessed. This led to 1,800 people receiving alcohol advice from A&E clinicians and around 600 appointments being made at the A&E Alcohol Review Clinic. The Alcohol Care Team also carried out nearly 1600 in depth assessments around alcohol use on the main hospital wards during 2014/15.
In 2011 Andrew was admitted to the BRI with chest pains, convinced he was having a heart attack. While in hospital he was asked how much, and how often, he drank. He was given the opportunity to meet the Alcohol Care Team.
An honest discussion with the Alcohol Clinical Nurse Specialist, saw Andrew opening up about how he had been using alcohol to help him cope for 20 years. Andrew was a young widower, raising a child with a challenging behaviour. Andrew was also trying to hold down a job and things were tough.
Wendy Lambert, Alcohol Clinical Nurse Specialist, said: “Alcohol screening helps to identify patients, like Andrew, who are drinking over the recommended weekly units and who may benefit from help and advice or be referred for additional support.
“By asking a number of simple questions relating to how often and how much people drink it identifies those whose drinking habits may cause them short and/or long-term health risks.”
Andrew was put in touch with a counsellor; working together they helped him to rebuild his life.
Andrew admits that starting the conversation about his alcohol use was a big step, he said:
“By talking to the team I started to understand the effect alcohol was having on my body and mind. I realised I was struggling with a lot of my life; I was depressed and using alcohol to cope. If I had understood this sooner, I could have had a very different life.
“I was encouraged to keep a diary and record what I was drinking and my feelings, I can look back on this and see where I can improve and do things differently.”
But it wasn’t just Andrew’s attitude to alcohol that changed. Engaging in the programme saw Andrew change his whole approach. The team supported Andrew look at how he spent his time at home, and to find alternatives to drinking.
“I’ve started to exercise, it’s important for my recovery. I walk to and from work every day and this gives me time to think, rather than sitting in traffic getting stressed. I also go swimming three times a week. Exercising has really boosted my confidence, it’s improved my mood and I’ve lost weight”
The positive changes haven’t just impacted on Andrew’s wellbeing, his family is benefitting too.
“I didn’t realise how much I was spending on alcohol every week. With the money I’ve saved I’ve been able to spend more quality time with my daughter. We’ve been able to go on holiday, which has been great for both of us.”
Still on his recovery journey, Andrew admits that there are difficult times. “It’s always going to be there. Winter’s hard, and when I’m alone I’ve learnt to plan, keep occupied and I know what to do if I can’t cope.
“With the help and support I’ve had, I’m happy I’ve overcome a lot of my alcohol problems. I’ll keep on going.”
During Alcohol Awareness Week (16-22 November) the Alcohol Care Team, in partnership with Lifeline Piccadilly Project, will be in the main entrance of the Bradford Royal Infirmary. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday they’ll be offering advice and information about alcohol related issues and sharing their latest resource Alcohol and Your Liver: what you need to know.