Emergency departments need to do more to identify young people with alcohol problems

June 19, 2017

Nine of out of ten Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments are failing to identify young people with alcohol problems, preventing them from getting the vital help they need, a new study in the Emergency Medical Journal has found.

A survey of 147 A&E departments, conducted by researchers from the University of Surrey, found that are not routinely asked about their , a useful tool in detecting problems. The research also found that those over the age of 65 are not routinely asked about their drinking either.

The survey found that over 85 per cent of A&E departments do not routinely ask young people about their alcohol consumption or use formal screening tools to identify those that may need help or advice about their drinking. This is in contravention of NICE guidelines, which suggest that screening followed by feedback of the results is the most effective way to reduce alcohol related harm.

Although young people are drinking less than previous generations, this age group still accounts for the largest number of alcohol-related A&E admissions.

Researchers also found that people over the age of 65 are not routinely asked about their alcohol consumption. Drinking above recommended limits can have a disproportionate effect on older people due to interactions with medications, and increased sensitivity to the consequenses of consumption. Statistics show that 20 per cent of drink at unsafe levels.

A&E departments were, however, found to be improving for adults, with more than 60 per cent routinely asking and using formal screening tools to ascertain alcohol consumption. More than 80 per cent of departments had increased their access to alcohol health workers/clinical nurse specialists since 2011, offering expert advice and support to patients with . A&E departments had also made progress in informing general practitioners of when individuals were admitted to hospitals, helping to create a care plan for the individual.

Harm from alcohol currently costs the UK around £21bn per year, with £3.5bn spent in the NHS, £11bn tackling alcohol-related crime and £7.3bn from lost work days and productivity costs. This figure is expected to rise with increased sales of alcohol.

Lead author of the report Dr Robert Patton from the University of Surrey said: "Ending up in A&E is often a wakeup call for people and forces them to assess their alcohol consumption. However this is not always the case and sometimes involvement from a health care professional is what is required to support people in reducing their alcohol consumption.

"The fact that young people and those over 65 are not routinely asked about their alcohol intake results in their problem being swept under the carpet which is dangerous. Alcohol can destroy lives and puts undue pressure on the NHS, so it is important that the support is in place to help those affected."

Explore further: More frequent energy drink use associated with drunk driving behaviors

More information: Robert Patton et al. Alcohol identification and intervention in English emergency departments, Emergency Medicine Journal (2017). DOI: 10.1136/emermed-2016-206467

Related Stories

More frequent energy drink use associated with drunk driving behaviors

September 28, 2016
Highly caffeinated energy drinks (EDs) have been of concern to the public-health community for almost a decade. Many young people consume EDs with alcohol to decrease alcohol's sedative effects and stay awake longer, enabling ...

Community action not enough to reduce problem drinking and related harms

March 11, 2014
Implementation of community-based interventions alone is unlikely to be effective for reducing most alcohol-related harms and risky alcohol consumption, according to a study by Australian researchers published in this week's ...

New alcohol guidelines unlikely to have a direct impact on drinking

February 10, 2016
The UK's new alcohol guidelines are unlikely to have a direct impact on drinking, but they do raise awareness of harm and so may alter social attitudes towards alcohol, suggests an expert in The BMJ today.

Perspective: Balancing alcohol consumption in our ageing population

August 7, 2014
When it comes to alcohol consumption, the drinking habits of young people tend to attract the most attention.

Alcohol and drug screening needed for the elderly

April 13, 2015
Concerns surrounding drug and alcohol consumption are widely discussed in relation to youth but, according to a University of Adelaide researcher, there is a need to explore this issue further with older Australians.

'Alcopops' tax fails to cut binge drinking in young people

June 6, 2013
A study of hospital admissions in one of Australia's favourite holiday destinations has shown no reduction in alcohol-related harm since the tax increase on alcopops.

Recommended for you

Exercising immediately after study may help you remember

August 24, 2017
Exercise may be the secret to retaining information, according to new research from UNSW that may encourage more physical activity in classrooms and nursing homes.

Americans misinformed about smoking

August 22, 2017
After voluminous research studies, numerous lawsuits and millions of deaths linked to cigarettes, it might seem likely that Americans now properly understand the risks of smoking.

Women who sexually abuse children are just as harmful to their victims as male abusers

August 21, 2017
"That she might seduce a helpless child into sexplay is unthinkable, and even if she did so, what harm can be done without a penis?"

To reduce postoperative pain, consider sleep—and caffeine

August 18, 2017
Sleep is essential for good mental and physical health, and chronic insufficient sleep increases the risk for several chronic health problems.

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.