Study says healthcare staff require training to identify patients' alcohol misuse

Drink-related admissions double but hospitals lack services to tackle problem

Health workers should receive regular training to identify people who are drinking at harmful levels, according to a study by the Nuffield Trust.

Its analysis showed hospital admissions in England for cases of alcohol poisoning have doubled in six years.

Approximately one in four of those hospitals were revealed to have no alcohol liaison service for treating people with alcohol-related problems.

Alcohol liaison services can provide clinical management for unplanned alcohol withdrawal, screening of cognitive impairment and help with access to alcohol services such as Alcoholics Anonymous.

The Nuffield Trust report, Alcohol-specific activity in hospitals in England, examined six years' worth of admissions data provided by NHS and foundation trusts in England from 2006-13.

In the conclusion it said: ‘Our assessment of alcohol-related harm across England presents a worrying picture of increasing harm across a range of population groups and persistent, and in some cases widening, inequalities.

‘The results also add to the evidence that alcohol-specific activity places a significant burden on hospital settings and that there are opportunities to identify those drinking at harmful levels, and to direct them to appropriate services in line with best-practice guidelines.

‘It is of concern that, despite the availability of cost-effective evidence-based interventions for use in health care settings, and best-practice guidance on the importance of alcohol liaison services in hospitals, approximately one in four hospitals do not have an alcohol service available.’

It concluded: ‘At a local level, providers of health and other services should ensure their staff receive training and support to identify and signpost individuals who may be consuming alcohol at harmful levels.'

The report said clinical commissioning groups should collaborate and work with local authorities to ensure funding of local prevention services is provided – including the provision of alcohol liaison services in acute trusts.

Read the full report here

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