Alcohol identification and intervention in English emergency departments

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Abstract

Aims

In the ED, alcohol identification and brief advice is an effective method of reducing consumption and related harms. Our objective was to conduct a national survey of English EDs to determine current practice regarding alcohol identification and provision of brief advice and to compare changes in activity to a previous National Survey conducted in 2011.

Methods

This was a cross-sectional survey of all consultant-led EDs in England.

Results

Of 180 departments, 147 (81.6%) responded. All departments may question adult patients about their alcohol consumption, with many (63.6%) asking all patients aged over 18 years as part routine care and using a formal screening tool (61.4%). The majority of departments asked young people (aged 11–17 years) about their consumption (83.8%), but only 11.6% did so as a part of routine practice. Compared with the 2011 survey, there have been significant increases in routine screening among adults (15.9%, CI 4.16% to 27.18%; p=0.006), general practitioners being informed about patients’alcohol-related presentations (10.2%, CI 0.64% to 19.58%; p=0.028) and access to an alcohol health worker or a clinical nurse specialist (13.4%, CI 3.64% to 22.91%, p=0.005). Modest (non-significant) changes were also found in access to training on brief advice (9.7%) and the use of formal screening questions on adult patients (9.7%).

Conclusion

Alcohol screening together with referral or intervention is becoming part of routine practice in England. Compared with our previous national survey, increases in alcohol screening and intervention activity are demonstrated, with improvements in routine questioning (among adults), the number of general practitioners being informed about alcohol-related attendances, provision of training, access to specialist services and the use of formal screening tools.

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