TEENAGERS in the north of Scotland end up in hospital after drinking binges twice as many times as the rest of the country, a shock report has revealed today.
The study has raised fears that the Highlands are facing a “health timebomb”.
Statistics showed that the number of north teenagers who end up in hospital after drinking binges is 50 per cent higher than the Scottish average.
It also showed nearly a quarter of children were overweight or obese -and that the juvenile diabetes rate was the worst in the country.
The figures were revealed in the annual report by NHS Highland’s director of public health, Margaret Somerville.
Conservative MSP Mary Scanlon, who is a former shadow health secretary, warned: “This is a devastating legacy for future generations.
“There’s no doubt it is a timebomb -diabetes brings circulation and sight problems, and people need help and support in order to live with it.
“Obesity is a downward spiral as far as health is concerned, and PE in schools is probably one issue that could be looked at, as well as other exercise opportunities.”
The Highlands and Islands MSP added: “Although we’ve always been slightly higher than average in the Highlands for alcohol consumption, we have been promised over the past 14 years that this is being tackled with vigour.
“In the past, Highland was around average on public-health issues, so serious questions need to be asked.
“Given that the NHS are faced with POUNDS 9 million of cuts from the Scottish Government, I would hope that more money would be put into preventive public-health initiatives rather than crisis management.”
Former Highland Council leader Dr Michael Foxley, who is a GP, said he knew of 13-year-olds who had been taken to accident and emergency after drinking themselves unconscious, and he called for more to be done to tackle the problem.
In 2011-12, 188 people aged 19 and under per 100,000 of population were treated in hospitals in the Highlands and Argyll due to the effects of alcohol, compared with a Scottish average of 124.
But, both the Highland and Scottish figures have been declining for five years.
The report shows that nearly 25 per cent of children in the health board area were overweight or obese and a higher percentage of primary one children across the Highlands were overweight than in Scotland in general.
The figures also show that 138 north children had type 1 diabetes at the start of this year for reasons “not fully understood”.
Dr Somerville said yesterday that Mrs Scanlon had been right to label the statistics a timebomb - but added that the situation
could not be addressed by NHS Highland alone.
She hoped a school healthy-living project started last year would, along with other initiatives, eventually help ease the crisis.
She added: “I don’t think you can say we have not been trying on the alcohol front. I have, done a lot to point out the huge issue of alcohol causing harm across the Highlands.
“We are well aware that we have a big problem. We are addressing that, but we do have some way to go.”
She stressed that type 1 diabetes in children had “nothing to do with obesity” and said improvements had been made in recent years to enable children with the condition to live as normal a life as possible.