Alcohol consumption in the UK has been increasing steadily. We prospectively studied the burden on hospital services caused by overt alcohol misuse, in an inner-city hospital in north-west England. All Accident & Emergency (A&E) patients were assessed to determine whether their hospital attendance was alcohol-related, and whether this resulted in admission and/or generated new out-patient appointments. Over 2 months, 1915 patients attended A&E with alcohol-related problems, accounting for 12% of attendances; 50% were aged 18-39 years, and acute alcohol intoxication was the commonest presenting complaint. Overall, 6.2% of all hospital admissions were due to alcohol-related problems. Over 2800 new out-patient visits were likely to have been generated over an 18-month period from initial attendance with an alcohol-related problem, mostly for orthopaedic clinics. The burden placed by overt alcohol-related problems on hospitals is enormous, both in terms of the emergency and out-patient services. The implementation of education, screening and intervention strategies in A&E departments, and employment of key trained personnel, should be considered, to optimize the clinical management of these patients.