HIGH levels of alcohol-related deaths in Bournemouth have prompted the council to discuss taking a “more joined up approach” to tackle the problem.

Members discussed the issue at a recent meeting after it was revealed the town had more deaths directly attributed to alcohol dependency than anywhere else in the south west.

Asked for an explanation, the borough’s deputy director of public health Sam Crowe said: “I think Bournemouth is no different from lots of other seaside towns, so if you look at places like Blackpool, Brighton, Weston Super Mare – they also have above average statistics relating to the number of dependent drinkers in those areas.

“There may be many reasons, but I think one of them that you can see playing out in some areas in Bournemouth is the change from seaside accommodation, that may no longer be sustainable, which falls into a change use.

“It may become a house of multiple occupation and in some of those areas they are at the bottom end of the accommodation market.

“And because the accommodation is so cheap, that tends to be where some of those supported places for people claiming incapacity benefit due to alcoholism… end up.”

Mr Crowe said there had been a drop in the number of alcohol-related hospital admissions and deaths, but that the town still has one of the highest rates in the country.

“The group that stands out in Bournemouth is middle-aged men,” he said.

“There are obviously dependent female drinkers, but when you look at the difference in the statistics, it tends to affect more men than women.”

Mr Crowe said that the problem in Bournemouth is so pervasive that it is “not necessarily helpful” to try and pinpoint specific geographical areas most impacted.

And asked about the contribution of rough sleepers to the statistics, he said this is not a straightforward link to establish.

“There are people who are on the street misusing substances but the factors that first precipitated them becoming homeless can be linked back to having quite a chaotic childhood,” he said. “They may have left home at a very early age and the substance misuse can sometimes be a coping strategy in relation to their current living circumstances.”

Vice chairman of the adult social care and overview panel, Cllr Philip Broadhead, said: “This is really a concerning thing that we have and actually it is a pan-health service thing that we have got to look at, but equally how the authority in particular can start to tackle this.”

And Mr Crowe concluded that further "joined up action" is planned.

"It is hoped that this will raise awareness and lead to further actions to reduce the impact of alcohol on the NHS and public sector more widely," he said.