The Government department will continue to measure alcohol-related hospital admissions using primary and secondary diagnoses but, instead of including these in one lump figure, it will separate external causes to give a more accurate reflection on alcohol-related health issues.
The changes have been announced after the body issued a consultation on the figures last year.
The trade previously criticised that the figures were subject to significant inflation due to the automatic inclusion of secondary diagnoses, which can be alcohol-related but may not be relevant to the admission.
Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers strategic affairs director Kate Nicholls said the changes are a “helpful dose of common sense” and would like to see the same apply for all alcohol-related statistics.
“It was nonsensical when someone who had never consumed alcohol had a condition that meant it went down as an alcohol-related admission, just because they had, for example, high blood pressure,” she said.
“If there is going to be a sensible tackling of the problems with solid and robust statistics then exactly the same needs to apply for crime and disorder figures so only genuine alcohol cases are recorded.”
Mark Baird, head of industry affairs and alcohol policy at Diageo, said it was “unfortunate” secondary diagnoses will still be included but said the changes were an “important and positive step in the right direction”.
“It is needed because lots of secondary diagnoses are very difficult to measure and quite inaccurate. The new measure will reduce the alcohol-related figures - currently at 1 million – by around 200,000 to 250,000,” he told the Publican’s Morning Advertiser.
The British Beer & Pub Association said it would look at the proposals very carefully, adding that it is important primary diagnosis figures continue to be published.
“This is because the increasing use of multiple diagnoses shows a higher trend in alcohol related admissions than would otherwise be the case,” a BBPA spokesperson stated.
“Also, the figures should be presented in relation to total hospital admissions, another key point we made in our response.”
Improvements in diagnosis
In the report on the consultation, PHE said between 2002/03 and 2010/11, the percentage of admission episodes with at least one secondary diagnosis increased from 58% to 75%.
It stated: “Much of this increase is believed to be due to improvements in diagnosis and recording, creating a more complete picture of the morbidity relating to alcohol. These improvements mean that while recent estimates are likely to be a better reflection of the comorbidity [secondary disorders] associated with alcohol, estimates from earlier time periods are not directly comparable as they will have underestimated the number of secondary conditions related to alcohol.”
PHE chief knowledge officer Professor John Newton added: “Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for ill-health and causes premature death. If we are to help people lead longer, healthier lives then we need to be able to measure the impact of alcohol consumption on individuals, communities and wider society, so that we understand where attention is most needed.
“The new Public Health Outcomes Framework indicator on alcohol-related hospital admissions will capture the progress made by local authorities and their partners in reducing alcohol-related ill-health.”
The organisation will also publish updates for old figures going back to 2002/03 using the new method. The new statistics are expected to be published in February 2014.