An insight report by Alcohol Research UK on the results of the 2011 National Emergency Department survey of alcohol identification and brief advice activity show that, compared to the earlier 2006 survey, levels of screening, provision of help/ advice and access to AHW / CNS services have all increased significantly. The report concludes that departments are beginning to identify local alcohol ‘champions’, and this is associated with an increase in the provision of training in both identification and brief intervention.
70.5% of all EDs recorded an alcohol related attendance in the patients notes, with 74.8% informing the patients GP about such attendances. Every department offers help or advice for patients who might have an alcohol problem (100.0%). The help/ advice provided by about half (53.0%) of all departments was a referral to their own ‘in house’ specialist team, with 28.5% referring patients to an external agency. Some department staff provided an intervention themselves as either a leaflet (19.2%) or ‘Brief Advice’ (6.0%).
The majority of departments had access to either Alcohol Health Workers or Clinical Nurse Specialists (71.8%) – most of these were based on-site (74.8%). Three quarters (76.7%) of departments had a separate area for patients under 18 years old. Most did ask young people about their alcohol consumption (82.0%) but few did so routinely (8.9%). Intoxication was the most frequently cited reason for a young person’s alcohol related ED attendance (55.6%). Evenings (46.4%) and weekends (45.0%) were the most likely times for young people to present to the ED with an alcohol related presentation. The increased use of formal alcohol screening measures, often applied routinely, suggests that English Emergency Departments are beginning to maximise the likelihood of identifying those patients who may benefit from further help or advice about their alcohol consumption. The four fold increase in access to specialist services for such patients should serve to also ensure that those who require help are exposed to interventions that are both effective and cost effective. The authors conclude therefore that alcohol no longer represents a missed opportunity in the ED.