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A&E fail to spot problem drinkers

26th July 2007

Findings of a new study have claimed that accident and emergency departments in hospitals across England are failing to identify problem drinkers or offer them long term help when they seek treatment.

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The study, which covered all casualty departments and was conducted by the National Addiction Centre, found that in 87% of A&E departments staff did not ask any questions about a patient’s alcohol consumption.

The report published in Emergency Medicine Journal found that only four out 191 hospitals formally assessed dangerous drinking.

Bob Patton of the National Addiction Centre said: “Research has found that up to 40% of people attending A&E departments would benefit from help or advice about their drinking.
“Yet as staff are not using formal screening tools to measure alcohol-related harm, the hazardous drinkers may not get the help they need because they aren’t being asked questions about their alcohol use.?

Action on Addiction endorsed the report but it acknowledged that because screening would involve people having blood alcohol tests providing urgent treatment to patients was the main priority in a busy A&E department.

Action on Addiction chief executive Lesley King-Lewis added: “By taking the time to formally test patients in this way, we may actually prevent re-attendance.?

The Department of Health say that there is only limited evidence as to the value of offering alcohol advice within A&E departments but it has commissioned additional research into the subject.

It has also emerged that many hospitals do not record whether an admission is alcohol-related or not.

 

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