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Last Updated: Friday, 14 March 2008, 15:26 GMT
Medics taught to spot drink abuse
Man drinking a pint of beer
Alcohol consumption has been rising for the last 15 years
Doctors are to be given special training to spot people who drink too much, the government has said.

It says that within three years, all medical schools in England will have alcohol training on the curriculum.

It comes after a leading doctor said people should be fined 100 for being drunk in public.

The government says there are around 10 million people in England who are causing themselves serious harm because of the amount they drink.

Doctors and nurses are our eyes and ears when it comes to identifying problem drinkers
Dawn Primarolo, public health minister

In all, 60,000 medical students will be trained over the next decade.

Medical schools have been allocated 650,000 to examine the best way of training doctors-to-be how to spot alcohol misuse.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo told the British Medical Association's public health conference: "Doctors and nurses are our eyes and ears when it comes to identifying problem drinkers."

A spokesman for Alcohol Concern said: "For too long GPs have avoided asking questions about alcohol use, partly due to lack of training.

"However this issue need a package of measures - GPs must also be incentivised to raise alcohol issues, until this happens, the undergraduate training alone may not be enough to help patients reduce their drinking."

Earlier this week, plastic surgeon Peter Mahaffey told the British Medical Journal police should carry breathalysers and fine those three times over the drink-drive limit.

The Bedford Hospital medic said his suggestion came after seeing patients injured in drunken fights and disorder.

We think the government would be much better to force bars and clubs not to serve people when they have had enough
Alcohol Concern spokesman
Mr Mahaffey said he had been motivated to speak out after seeing patients with facial scarring and nerve injuries sustained during drunken disorder.

He said by imposing fines the message would soon get across that binge-drinking was not acceptable.

"I think as a society we have had enough. We need to send out a strong message.

"The levels of drinking and the harm it is causing is depressing. I see people with terrible injuries that they will never recover from. Now is the time to act."

Consumption

Alcohol consumption has been rising steadily for the past 15 years, with figures suggesting a third of men and a fifth of women drink more than the recommended levels each week.

Alcohol is a factor in the majority of crimes and is estimated to cost the economy 7bn a year.

HAVE YOUR SAY
Fines will do nothing to stop Britain's love affair with binge drinking
Louise Moyer, Maidenhead

But the Home Office said the proposed extra powers were unnecessary.

Police already have powers to fine people between 50 and 80 who are drunk and disorderly - although under Mr Mahaffey's plans they would not need to be causing a nuisance to be punished - and ban drinking in public places.

A spokesman said: "We recognise that while most people adopt a safe and sensible approach to alcohol, there are a minority whose drunken behaviour leads to violence or anti-social behaviour.

"The government is determined to tackle those who act in this way."

And an Alcohol Concern spokesman added: "We would not support this. There are already laws in place to tackle drunken behaviour."



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