ALCOHOL-related medical problems appear to be on the increase across Dorset – thought to be partly due to the added pressures of the pandemic.

The county’s joint health board heard that health professionals are monitoring cases where there is a link to booze and may carry out further work.

News of the concern comes after Public Health England reported a 21 per cent rise in liver problems across the country in 2019-20.

Thursday’s board meeting was told that Dorset is now considering setting up a panel to investigate if there has been a similar rise in the county and, if so, what to do about it.

“There is a feeling that this could be a hidden problem which has arisen from Covid,” said officer Robert Spencer.

He said that for many people during the pandemic the gap between the last cup of coffee of the day and the first glass of wine had reduced.

The meeting heard that long waits for detoxification work locally was having an impact on the number of people who successfully completed alcohol courses, also Covid related.

“The proportion of those in long term treatment remains below the national average as a result of the large influx of new clients in the last 18 months. Alcohol related hospital admissions continue to rise,” said the report into the situation in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area.

In the Dorset Council area health officials are concerned about a drop in people coming forward for treatment with the numbers completing programmes having fallen, mainly because treatment services have been limited for the past 16 months.

Figures produced for the meeting show that the majority of people dependent on alcohol not in the treatment system is high – with an estimated 85% in Bournemouth, 88% in Poole and 73% in the Dorset Council area, although the latest figures available are for 2018-19. Nationally those not in treatment is estimated at 83% for the same year.

Alcohol related hospital admissions across both council areas, and the country, have also been rising – from 493 per 100,000 in Dorset in 2013-14 to 549 and from 610 per 100,000 in the BCP area to 807 over the same period.

Successful completion of alcohol treatments in both areas are in line with the national figures but are low – at around 30 per cent.