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Friday, 17 August, 2001, 23:33 GMT 00:33 UK
Concern over alcoholism care
Alcoholism can be difficult to spot
Thousands of people with drink problems receive a worrying lack of support from front-line primary care staff, a survey suggests.

A study by the charity Alcohol Concern found that 71% of GPs and practice nurses questioned feel they have insufficient information to treat dependent drinkers.

Our survey shows that many GPs and practice nurses are really concerned as alcohol misuse is a major problem for their patients

Sue Baker
Almost as many, 68%, said they did not know how to advise on techniques designed to prevent people developing more serious alcohol problems.

These 'brief interventions' are five minute advice sessions which research has shown can succeed in lowering patients' alcohol consumption.

Just 26% of GPs and practice nurses felt they had sufficient information about how to spot physical symptoms of alcoholism.

Even fewer - between 17% and 20% - understood the psychological and social signs.

Major problem

The figures were based on a survey of 350 doctors and nurses.

They come against a background where:

  • Alcohol is estimated to cost the NHS some 3 billion - 12% of total spending on hospitals
  • The proportion of women drinking above medically recommended sensible levels has grown by 50% over a ten year period
  • 11 to 15 year olds are drinking twice as much as they did in 1990
Alcohol Concern has joined forces with the Department of Health to launch a new information service about drink problems designed to help GPs and practice nurses tackle the problem more effectively.

Alcohol Concern Assistant Director, Sue Baker, said: "Our survey shows that many GPs and practice nurses are really concerned as alcohol misuse is a major problem for their patients - and that they need more information to be in a position to help people.

"That's why we have launched our new service. This will provide information, advice and materials for primary care workers - including latest information on interventions designed to help problem drinkers, details of help-giving agencies and access to a special bulletin board on the Alcohol Concern website, where people can post their questions and concerns."

One in four men and one in seven women in Britain are said to drink more than the recommended safe levels.

These are two to three units of alcohol a day for women, and three to four for men. A unit of alcohol is roughly equivalent to half a pint of beer or a small glass of wine.

See also:

02 Jul 01 | Health
Drink linked to hospital visits
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