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Health / Concern in communities over levels of lockdown drinking, health board chairman says

NHS Shetland board members also hear that MMR rates are rising in the isles

THE CHAIRMAN of NHS Shetland has stressed the importance of tackling harmful alcohol consumption in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gary Robinson told a meeting of the health board on Tuesday that the impact of lockdown and workers going on furlough is thought to have increased the amount of alcohol some people are drinking.

“I think there’s a concern about the levels of alcohol consumption in the communities,” he said.

Figures presented to the board showed that the numbers of alcohol brief interventions carried out by NHS Shetland rose from 63 to 80 in the period between January and March.

The delivery of this service, however, was disrupted due to Covid-19.

“I think it’s something we need to get back onto quite quickly,” Robinson said.

A report to members noted that while the number of screenings for the service was high, patients do not always tend to meet the threshold for a full intervention.

“This could be interpreted as positive in that it means people are not drinking at hazardous or harmful levels, or it may mean that the screenings are being targeted at the wrong people,” it said.

National charity Drink Aware describes a brief intervention as a “short, evidence-based, structured conversation about alcohol consumption” which “seeks to motivate and support the individual to consider a change in their drinking behaviour in order to reduce their risk of harm”.

A report presented to health board members also said that the smoking rate in Shetland is now 13.7 per cent, “which is the lowest in Scotland”.

The board also heard that the uptake rate of the MMR vaccine has increased in recent months by over 13 per cent to 90.9 per cent.

However, 95 per cent is required for herd immunity.

Director of nursing and acute services Kathleen Carolan said the figures are skewed somewhat by some parents deciding against immunisation.

“It tends to be certain families that are electing not to vaccinate their children,” she said.

The Shetland substance misuse recovery service can be contacted on 01595 743006.