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Simple interventions for accident and emergency patients could help reduce excessive drinking


Doctors and researchers have discovered that it is possible to reduce excessive drinking among Accident & Emergency (A&E) casualties through simple interventions such as offering appointments with alcohol health workers.

According to research, published yesterday in The Lancet, the team discovered that by offering patients in A&E who had been drinking excessively the chance to visit an alcohol health worker, it was possible to reduce excessive drinking, and limit subsequent further visits to hospital.

The team, from Imperial College London, St Mary’s Hospital NHS Trust, St George’s Hospital Medical School, King’s College London and Central and North West London Mental Health Trust, placed 599 A&E casualties into one of two groups for the study. One group received a leaflet warning them about the health risks of excessive drinking, while the other group received the leaflet, and were also sent to an alcohol health worker.

After six months, the researchers found that those who were referred to the alcohol health worker were consuming on average 60 units of alcohol a week, while those who were not referred were drinking 83 units (a difference of 23 units equivalent to over 11 pints of beer a week). At the sane time, those referred to the health worker had an average of 0.5 fewer visits to A&E.

Professor Robin Touquet from Imperial College London and St Mary’s Hospital, and one of the researchers comments: "With levels of alcohol consumption in Britain rising, particularly among the young, medical staff are increasingly having to manage the consequences of excessive drinking. Alcohol increases the likelihood of accidental injury, deliberate self harm and violent incidents. At weekends up to 70% of people attending A&E have health problems related to their use of alcohol. This places a huge strain on NHS resources, and this study could provide a way to tackle this growing problem."

Dr Mike Crawford, from Imperial College London and Central and North West London Mental Health Trust, and one of the researchers, adds: "Identification and referral of patients attending an Accident and Emergency Department who are misusing alcohol provides an opportunity to help patients develop insight into the consequences of their drinking and promote improved health. These results show a simple and cheap intervention can be remarkably effective in reducing the risks of excessive alcohol consumption."

Tony Stephenson | EurekAlert!
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