Written Answers. - Alcoholism Treatment.

Gay Mitchell


82 Mr. G. Mitchell asked the Minister for Health the number of patients currently receiving treatment for alcoholism; whether such patients are undergoing private or public treatment; the degree to which treatment is available in either case; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1009/94]

Information in relation to admissions to hospitals, both public and private, of persons with alcohol related disorders is collated on behalf of my Department on an annual basis by the Health Research Board. The latest published information from the board is in respect of the year 1992. The report showed that of a total of 6,081 admissions in that year for alcohol related disorders, 5,258 were to public hospitals and psychiatric units, while 823 were to private hospitals. Figures are not available for the number of persons treated for alcoholism in specialist alcohol centres other than hospitals.

A comprehensive range of services for the treatment of alcoholism exists for both public and private patients. Services include detoxification, hospital in-patient residential programmes, residential programmes in specialist alcohol centres, out-patients programmes, day programmes and counselling. The services available are detailed in the Directory of Alcohol, Drugs and Related Services in the Republic of Ireland.

Alcohol related problems make a heavy demand on our psychiatric services. Traditionally those suffering from such problems have been treated in the controlled environment of both public and private psychiatric hospitals. However, the report of a study group on the development of the psychiatric service,Planning for the Future, published in 1984 recommended that the emphasis in the management of alcohol related problems should be on community based intervention rather than in-patient treatment. There will, however, continue to be a need for a small number of in-patient places, for people who cannot benefit from community based programmes.
In line with this approach, comprehensive community-based alcohol treatment programmes are being developed by the health boards. Consideration is being given by the boards to ways in which services provided by voluntary and private organisations can be integrated with health board services.
The emphasis in relation to alcohol related problems should be on their prevention. This is a key element in the promotion of moderation in the consumption of alcohol in order to reduce the risks to physical, mental and family health which arises from alcohol misuse. As the Deputy will be aware, I gave a commitment on the publication ofShaping a healthier Future, a strategy for effective healthcare, that a national policy on alcohol would be adopted and launched by my Department within 12 months.