Tackling the impact of problem drinking

As the UK’s drinking culture exerts increasing pressure on the NHS, nurses in settings from emergency departments to GP practices and community care are on the front line of alcohol abuse, using brief interventions and outreach education to change patients’ behaviour.
Problem drinking

Picture credit: iStock Photo

Rugby-loving bloke Pete Hawkins says he enjoys a pint or two. But every day at work he sees evidence of the damage that alcohol can do.

As a senior staff nurse in the emergency department of Southmead Hospital, Bristol, much of his job involves coping with the effects of our boozy culture. This can mean anything from dealing with the immediate impact of alcohol poisoning, to facing anti-social behaviour – including physical and verbal abuse – from patients.

‘Not being a city centre hospital, we don’t get the same spike at weekends,’ Mr Hawkins explains. ‘But often what we’re seeing is people suffering from the effects of longer-term alcohol abuse. We see a lot of older people, and middle-aged women who are drinking at home, and who have maybe fallen down stairs as a result. Or people


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