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NHS Digital Correction to The Sun and Daily Mail on under 15s hospital admissions for drugs

This correction is a response to figures used in the Sun and Daily Mail (21/22 August), which stated that two children (under 15s) per day are rushed to hospital as a result of taking drugs

This figure was calculated by halving the annual total hospital admissions of 795 for primary and secondary diagnosis of poisoning by illicit drugs and spreading this out over the number of days of the year. The fact that this is an average calculation is not made explicit and the stated fact that two children a day are hospitalised is incorrect. There is no way of knowing how many children per day are hospitalised for this reason.

Hospital admissions are not equal to a headcount of people and this is always the case with Hospital Episodes Statistics data. The same person could be admitted multiple times within a given time period). The data does not equate to 795 children, which is not explained within the articles and the above calculation breaks down this figure of 795 admissions into two children per day which is incorrect.

These figures are admissions for treatment and not just emergency admissions so it is not correct to say that patients have been "rushed to hospital". The primary and secondary diagnosis figures cover a range of hospital care. Not everyone who has been poisoned by illicit drugs requires emergency treatment.

Finally, there is no way of identifying which drugs anyone has been hospitalised for ingesting as this is not captured by the HES data. The admissions cover a broad spectrum of substances which are illicit and not all illegal, as stated in The Daily Mail article. Illicit is not the same as illegal and includes all drugs with a classification rating including prescription drugs, such as painkillers like Tramadol, and drugs with a lower classification such as cannabis.


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