More people are drinking as they deal with the stresses of the pandemic (Image: Getty)
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Liver disease has claimed 522 more lives than normal during the pandemic, Public Health England research shows.
Experts say it is due to people boozing to cope with isolation and stress.
Consultant hepatologist Prof Steve Ryder, of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said he had seen 20% more patients.
He added: “If you are at risk of liver failure and accelerate your drinking, it can take a matter of weeks to develop liver failure and die. It is very quick.”
Professor Stephen Ryder says liver disease is a massive cause of concern
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Labour shadow health minister Jonathan Ashworth said it was a “massive cause for concern” after “years of Tory cuts to specialist addiction” services.
Public Health England has been monitoring “excess deaths” to help understand the impact of Covid-19.
Their researchers found that between March 20 and November 27 last year there were 522 excess deaths due to cirrhosis and other liver disease.
Pamela Healy, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said: “The coronavirus outbreak has been a very worrying time for everyone. We know from our research that a lot of people drank more alcohol and ate unhealthier food last year – two major risk factors for liver disease.
An illustration of the human liver
“Now the UK is in a third lockdown, we are concerned that these bad habits will continue.
“January is often a time that people take stock after the Christmas period but this year it is even more important as the numbers at risk have also increased during the pandemic.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Local authorities know their communities best, which is why we are giving them over £3.2 billion this year to spend on public health services, including drug and alcohol treatment.
“Two million more people will be able to access mental health services by 2023/24, and we are also introducing specialist alcohol care teams in hospitals where alcohol-related admissions are high.”