Plymouth children under 10 treated for alcohol poisoning
CHILDREN aged 10 or younger have been admitted to hospital in Plymouth with alcohol poisoning last year.
New figures show that between one and five such children were admitted to Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust during 2011/12.
Youngsters aged under 18 were admitted to hospital nearly 50 times with alcohol poisoning the official figures show. Of these more than half involved 11 to 16-year-olds.
Admissions to Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust for alcohol poisoning among adults also continued to increase for the fourth year running topping more than 900.
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It comes as an argument raged over how to deal with problem drinking amid mounting speculation that government plans for minimum alcohol pricing personally championed by David Cameron are to be ditched.
Figures published by the NHS Information Centre for health and social care showed that children aged under 18 were admitted 48 times last year, although this is a marked fall on the decade high of 93 seen in 2010/11.
Among the age group 11 to 16, there were 28 admissions in 2011/12, while the statistics also show that children under 11 were also admitted although exact numbers are not disclosed on patient confidentiality grounds as they are so small – between one and five.
Meanwhile the number of hospital admissions for alcohol poisoning among adults, aged 18 and over rose again for the fourth year running from 871 in 2010/11 to 930 in 2011/12.
The Prime Minister insisted he remained determined to crack down on problem drinking as he was warned dropping plans for minimum alcohol pricing would "critically undermine" that goal.
Mr Cameron said the Government was still examining the results of a consultation on the policy amid reports the measure would be ditched. A consultation document issued last year had suggested a base price of 45p per unit, but a number of Cabinet Ministers including Theresa May, Andrew Lansley and Michael Gove have made clear they harbour doubts.
Doctors' leaders urged Mr Cameron to "be courageous" and take a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save lives, save the country money".
But Tory critics said minimum pricing was a 'blunderbuss' policy that would penalise responsible low-income drinkers while doing nothing to tackle problem drinking.
Mr Cameron was tackled in the Commons by one of his own backbenchers, and a former GP, who supported minimum pricing.
Responding, he said: "There is a problem with deeply discounted alcohol in supermarkets and other stores and I am absolutely determined that we will deal with this.
"We published proposals, we are looking at the consultation and the results to those proposals, but be in no doubt, we've got to deal with the problem of having 20p or 25p cans of lager available in supermarkets. It's got to change."
Dr Vivienne Nathanson, director of professional activities at the British Medical Association (BMA), said minimum pricing would help problem drinkers "kick the habit".
"Having nailed his colours very firmly to the mast and said this is something the Prime Minister wants to do because he recognises the tragedy that alcohol is causing in our society, it would be bizarre for him to let it wither," she said.
Shadow Commons Leader Angela Eagle said the Government was in chaos.