London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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Greenwich 1971

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Greenwich Borough]

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in the community for the long-term help that the alcoholic needs
and for which the hospitals are ill-equipped to supply. Unfortunately,
at present, most of the community facilities are minimal
and are provided by voluntary organisations with some financial
assistance from local authorities, but the Department of Health
and Social Security is encouraging both voluntary and statutory
bodies to co-operate in this venture of expansion.
It was reported by the Chief Inspector of Constabulary that
prosecutions for drunken driving rose by 36% to 21,389 during
1971 and "breathalyser" convictions by 49.8% to 34,863, yet we
are now seriously considering a relaxation of our drinking laws.
Recent experiences of other countries, such as Finland, in the
liberalising of their laws governing consumption of alcoholic
beverages, is that such actions stimulate drinking which, in due
course, give rise to further cases of alcoholism.
No evidence is available which could indicate the extent of
alcoholism locally but, according to Jellinek's formula, we
could expect up to 1,400 cases in the preliminary stages of addiction
of whom some 350 would be of the chronic type. Cases
usually come to light via the agencies of hostels, hospitals,
churches, soup kitchens, prison and reception centres, various
welfare and social organisations, etc., but nowhere is there a
means of co-ordinating all this information.
Basically it must be remembered that, at best, treatment can
only be partially successful and that prevention remains the
sole effective method of control. It will also prove to be the
most economical.
While it is true to say that treatment of cancer has advanced
rapidly, especially in recent years, and that some survival rates
have, as a consequence, improved substantially, nevertheless, it
is a fact that this has had little effect upon reducing the numbers
of persons eventually succumbing to malignant disease. Indeed,
throughout the country over the last 20 years, cancer mortality
as a percentage of total deaths has been rising steadily by an
average of 0.25 per annum to its present figure of 20.7%.
In England, during 1971, malignant disease accounted for
110,299 deaths and was responsible for 9% of all bed usage in
non-psychiatric hospitals. Undoubtedly there are disturbing features
about the rise in breast cancer in women and the more
substantial increase in bronchogenic carcinoma in both males
and females. During the last two decades, deaths from breast
cancer in women have increased by 25% to the current figure of
10,529 with a rate of 0.44. Lung cancer in men has advanced

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