Nearly 300 children aged 11 or under attended UK accident and emergency departments last year after drinking too much, according to new figures.
More than 6,500 under-18s were admitted to A&E departments in 2012/13 with alcohol-related conditions, of whom 293 were 11 years old or younger.
The figures, obtained after a Freedom of Information request by the Victoria Derbyshire programme on BBC Radio 5 Live, showed that there were 30 cases of children aged 11 or under staying overnight in hospital with an alcohol-related illness during the same period.
Girls in the 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 age groups outnumbered boys for attendances at accident and emergency departments for alcohol-related conditions in 2012/13. Boys outnumbered girls in the category of 11 and under.
Overall the number of attendances at A&E for under-18s with alcohol-related conditions fell from 7,821 in 2011/12 to 6,580 in 2012/13.
The findings come from information released by 125 of the UK’s 189 NHS trust and health boards.
The figures obtained follow Public Health England’s revelation that one in four underage drinkers consume the equivalent of seven pints of lager a week.
The news has prompted a call from Matt Taylor, managing director of ScreenSafe - provider of education and learning courses aimed at increasing pupil and teacher awareness about drugs and alcohol use - for more education about the dangers of alcohol to be brought into schools.
“The World Health Organisation tells us that every year, the harmful use of alcohol kills 2.5 million people, including 320,000 young people between 15 and 29 years of age. It is the third leading risk factor for poor health globally.” Mr Taylor said.
“The news today from the BBC that 11 year olds and younger are being treated for alcohol abuse is a warning flag to all parents and schools. If they are not already doing so, schools must introduce specialist education programmes designed for children that engage them and help make them aware of the risks of drinking alcohol.”
“We will work with schools to help them bring greater awareness of the issues of alcohol abuse. It increasingly appears that the earlier a formal and ongoing education process begins in the school, the more likely we can assist young people to make the right choices to help avoid abuse issues before they begin.” Mr Taylor concludes.