WORK to tackle high alcoholic liver disease rates in Bracknell Forest will be pushed back due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The issue was highlighted as a problem in the borough at a council meeting just days before the lockdown was enforced in March.

Since then, Bracknell Forest’s public health team has directed “just about all of its energy” towards tackling covid-19.

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Timothy Wheadon, the council’s chief executive, said: “This was going to be a key focus of the public health workload and as you can imagine since February and since March just about all of their energy has been directed towards the coronavirus.

“This will remain a very high priority as soon as there is the capacity to start bringing other things in.

“It is probably one of the biggest public health issues we have got in the borough except for coronavirus.”

Speaking at a council meeting last week, Mr Wheadon said a report focusing on the issue, due for a July council meeting, will be postponed.

Women aged between 35 and 55 have a high rate of liver cancers, according to a Bracknell Forest Council paper.

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The news revealed in February that hospital admissions for alcoholic liver disease hit a record high in the borough in 2018/2019.

Public Health England data showed 25 people were admitted to hospital caused by excessive alcohol intake in 2018/2019.

This is the highest rate for Bracknell Forest since records began in 2010/2011.

Treating alcohol-related liver diseases in Bracknell residents cost the NHS more than £150,000 in three years, an investigation by the News found in 2018.

The diseases include alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatic failure, alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic liver disease.

Pamela Healy, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, said in February 2020: “There is a common misconception that you have to be an ‘alcoholic’ to have liver disease but this is totally incorrect.

“Millions of us in the UK drink at a level that is putting our health at risk.

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“This has been driven by a shift in the drinking culture where drinking at home has become increasingly acceptable and affordable.”