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Alcohol screening: rise in referrals to clinical nurse specialist teams

A recent study looking into emergency departments’ (EDs) current practices regarding alcohol identification has found that there is an increase in their access to clinical nurse specialist (CNS) teams.

A recent study looking into emergency departments’ (EDs) current practices regarding alcohol identification has found that there is an increase in their access to clinical nurse specialist (CNS) teams.

The study found there was a 13.4 percentage point growth in access to CNSs and alcohol health workers (AHWs) between 2011 (71.8%) and 2015 (85.2%) in EDs.


The survey evaluated current alcohol screening Picture: iStock

Of 180 EDs who were asked to take part, 147 responded.

The survey consisted of 44 questions and was designed to evaluate current alcohol screening and brief advice or intervention procedures in the ED. It was supported by the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and included open and closed questions.

Outcomes also revealed that levels of routine questioning about alcohol consumption among adults had improved by 15.9%.

The second highest surge was at 10.2%, where EDs were informing patients’ GPs of alcohol-related attendance.

Despite some areas showing positive increases, the survey revealed that routine questioning of patients under 18 was limited. The authors said that this ‘suggests that there is room for further improvement, particularly because adolescents aged 15-24 years account for the largest number of ED attendances’.

The authors concluded that the high response rate suggests that the findings can be generalised to EDs across the UK. Although, they are cautious with this theory because ‘other countries have widely differing interpretations of what constitutes hazardous and harmful alcohol consumption’.  


Patton R, Green G (2018) Alcohol identification and intervention in English emergency departments. Emergency Medicine Journal. 35, 75-78.

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