ALASTAIR Campbell visited the Royal Bolton Hospital and praised it for its “fantastic” alcohol services department.

Tony Blair’s former spin doctor met with liver disease specialist Dr Kieran Moriarty, three specialist alcohol and liver nurses and spoke to patients to see what the hospital is doing to help people with liver disease and other alcohol-related conditions.

Dr Moriarty, a consultant gastroenterologist, leads the team, which won a prestigious British Society of Gastroenterology award earlier this year.

Mr Campbell, who is involved with Alcohol Concern, said: “It was incredibly uplifting to see how fantastic the nurses are in terms of their knowledge and the way they deal with people who have been severely damaged by alcohol.

“What I was impressed by were the nurses, Sandra, Rebecca and Sam. The way that they talked to the patients and their knowledge about how chemicals in cheap drinks can bring on psychosis was incredible.

“Alcoholism is doing more damage to an awful lot of people. There is no understanding in the country as to how bad it is and the strain it is putting on the health service.”

Mr Campbell has had his own struggle with alcoholism and he used his experience to write a novel, My Name Is, to demonstrate how alcohol addiction affects the person who has it, and their family.

He said: “I had a drink problem and a breakdown partly caused by alcoholism and there’s a big instinct within you that says ‘don’t drink’. But it’s the hardest thing in the world to follow when you’re in the throes of addiction.”

The father-of-three said the country needed to admit that alcoholism was a problem.

He said: “The reason why drug addiction is seen in a different light is because drugs are illegal. The thing about alcohol is it’s legal — and in this country you are considered weird if you don’t drink it.

“We have to face up to the problem and admit we have one as a country.”

Dr Moriarty said: “It was really good of Alastair to take the time to see Royal Bolton’s alcohol services. He was very engaging and you could see he had deep concerns for the patients he spent time with.

“Royal Bolton has pioneered alcohol care and has a dedicated alcohol care team to help patients who are admitted with alcohol-related diseases.

“We have established the first seven-day alcohol specialist nurses team in the UK who inspire and build confidence in patients, families and carers.”