Boozing to cope with lockdown blues caused more than 500 excess deaths from liver disease a study has shown.
Research from Public Health England revealed the scale of the problem as the boss of the British Liver Trust Pamela Healy spoke of her concern bad habits will continue during the third lockdown.
PHE researchers found eating the wrong food and drinking too much caused 522 excess deaths between March 20 and November 27 last year, due to cirrhosis and other liver diseases.
Labour's shadow health minister John Ashworth called it a "massive cause for concern" after "years of Tory cuts" to specialist addiction services, according to the Mirror.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it was giving local authorities billions of pounds more this year for public health and it was increasing access to mental health services, including for alcoholism.
Consultant hepatologist Prof Steve Ryder, of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said he had seen 20% more patients during lockdown.
He said: "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."
Public Health England said it has been monitoring "excess deaths" to help understand the impact of Covid-19. Experts believe Brits are hitting the bottle harder to cope with stress and isolation caused by lockdowns.
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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.
"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."
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