THOUSANDS of people across the South West were hospitalised for drug problems last year - the highest figure ever recorded.

The NHS has revealed how during the last financial year, including the first three months of 2020 when the Covid-19 crisis began, NHS hospitals across the South West were buckling under the pressure of a rising number of admissions for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders.

According to new analysis by drug addiction experts the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT), between April 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020, NHS hospitals in the South West admitted 9,510 people, an increase of seven per cent on 2018/19 (when there were 8,910) and a 10-year rise of 131 per cent.

The number of admissions with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug-related mental and behavioural disorders represents a rate of 182 per 100,000 South West population.

Proportionally, the rate of admissions per 100,000 population was greatest in Bristol (412), South Gloucestershire (270), Torbay (245) and Swindon (242).

UKAT’s analysis of NHS data reveals that hospitals in Bristol admitted 1,980 people last year for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders, almost 20 per cent more than what they admitted the previous year (1,695), and more than twice as many as they did 10 years ago (956).

North Somerset (390) had seen a 13 per cent rise from the previous year (345), and that was up 100 per cent on 10 years ago (195).

The Somerset figure of 1,000 represented a five per cent rise on the year before (955), and a massive 307 per cent jump from 10 years ago (246).

Drug treatment specialists UKAT warn that these figures are only set to worsen given the difficulties people faced during the rest of 2020.

“Unfortunately we expect these figures to rise again in the next annual report as the impact of the rest of 2020 and the multiple Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions are included in the figures,” said Nuno Albuquerque, group treatment lead at UKAT. 

Albuquerque added: “What we’re already seeing is that more and more people across the South West are struggling with drugs, which is resulting in increasing pressure on our already stretched NHS as admissions for mental, behavioural, injuries and poisoning by drugs continue to flood in.

“But imagine how much worse a person's relationship with drugs may have become during the difficult year of 2020. 

“Our treatment centres are operating at almost maximum capacity and admitting clients every day for drug-related disorders. 

“All we can ask is that councils across the South West, especially those where the data clearly shows a rise in hospital admissions, choose to invest in effective drug and alcohol treatment strategies this financial year in order to really support those in their communities who are clearly struggling.”

UKAT’s analysis shows that some local authority areas did in fact see a reduction in hospital admissions for drug-related mental and behavioural disorders last year, including Bath and North East Somerset, Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Swindon and Wiltshire.