More than 400 children were admitted to Essex A&Es after drinking alcohol or taking drugs in the last year, with the youngest under four years old.

A Freedom of Information request by the LDRS to the three Essex NHS trusts which runs the main hospitals in the county revealed 402 children aged 18 or younger were admitted to A&E with drug or alcohol intoxication or withdrawal as a presenting complaint between June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022.

At least 11 of these children were four years old or younger, according to data provided by Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust and East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

According to statements from the trusts, the hospitals have safeguarding procedures for when children are at risk of harm.

The majority of children admitted to Essex’s emergency departments for drinking alcohol and taking drugs in the time period were aged between 15 and 18 – recorded at 237.

The bulk of these admissions were based in Princess Alexandra Hospital, followed by Southend and then Basildon.

The LDRS also sent a Freedom of Information request to Essex County Council in an attempt to find out how many of the children were in the care system.

However, the request was declined on the basis of cost. The authority said there were 5,892 children open to social care as of July 2022 and all of their case notes would have to be “manually read” in order to respond, which would take too much time.

Princess Alexandra Hospital

According to the response from Princess Alexandra, 218 people 18 or younger attended emergency departments in the Harlow hospital during the time period.

11 of these were four years old or younger, while four were between five and nine years old. 58 were between the ages of 10 and 14, and 145 were between the ages of 15 and 18.

A spokesperson for the trust said in a statement: “Where any child may have been harmed or is at risk of harm, we follow all reporting and safeguarding procedures with our partners.”

The trust declined to comment on potential reasons for drug and alcohol related presentations.

Basildon, Broomfield and Southend Hospitals

A total of 119 children were seen in Basildon, Broomfield and Southend hospitals during the period.

According to the response from Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust, 39 children were seen in Basildon Hospital A&E, 29 in Broomfield and 51 in Southend during the period.

In Basildon, less than five were four-years-old or younger and less than five were between five to nine-years-old.

No children under nine were seen in Broomfield or Southend hospitals with alcohol or drug withdrawal or intoxication as a presenting complaint in that time.

But 11 children in Basildon Hospital were 10 to 14 years old, and 26 were between 15 and 17 -years old.

In Broomfield Hospital, there were 13 10 to 14 year olds and 16 15 to 17-year olds seen in A&E, while in Southend Hospital there were 16 10 to 14-year-olds and 35 15 to 17-year-olds.

A spokesperson from Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust said in a statement: “All patients, including children and young people, who arrive at our Emergency Departments are assessed on a case-by-case basis, with appropriate actions taken to ensure they receive the best possible care.

“This care includes the assessment and management of their risk. Safeguarding procedures are followed, and where necessary a referral to appropriate agencies is made.”

Colchester and Ipswich Hospitals

East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust declined to provide data on children under nine admitted to A&E at Colchester and Ipswich hospitals with drug or alcohol intoxication or withdrawal as a presenting complaint, saying it could potentially identify individuals due to low numbers. However, it did provide data for the other age groups.

In Colchester Hospital, five children between 10 and 14 were admitted, along with 13 between 15 and 18-years-old during the time period.

In Ipswich Hospital, there were 17 children between 10 to 14 and 30 kids between 15 and 18. This brings the total to at least 65 between the two hospitals.

The trust said it did have safeguarding procedures, but declined to comment on potential reasons behind the numbers of children admitted for drug or alcohol intoxication or withdrawal.