Page last updated at 23:43 GMT, Thursday, 1 April 2010 00:43 UK

Hospitals urged to offer advice to 'alcohol injured'

Drunk girl
Injuries due to binge drinking are common place

Hospital staff are being urged to offer advice on reducing drinking levels to people with alcohol-related injuries when they receive follow-up treatment.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England said outpatient clinic visits offered a great opportunity for nurses to motivate people to drink sensibly.

By then, the patient had had time to reflect on the cause of their injuries, one member of its board said.

Studies suggest "brief interventions" can encourage drinkers to change.

An estimated two million people attend accident and emergency departments with alcohol-related injuries every year.

Trial scheme

Injury and death caused by alcohol misuse is thought to cost the NHS and other public services an estimated £20bn a year.

It is thought suggestions about drinking less do not have much impact when the patient is perhaps still drunk or in shock over their injury.

A trial scheme in Wales found that 24% more of those offered drinking advice at a follow-up appointment than those who did not receive any advice had reduced their drinking to safer levels a year later.

The time nurses spend with patients during follow-up appointments provides a valuable window of opportunity to encourage people to think about whether they might be drinking too much
Janet Davies, Royal College of Nursing

The Royal College of Surgeons of England believes that the NHS is missing an opportunity to drive the safe drinking message home when patients head back to hospital for further treatment and has launched a policy to encourage its members to do more.

Jonathan Shepherd, a maxillofacial surgeon and a member of the Royal College's council, said he was confronted on an "almost daily basis" with the aftermath of alcohol-related injuries.

"I urge colleagues and hospital trusts to take the initiative now and engage with this group of patients before they become repeat visitors.

"By the time patients attend outpatient clinics for the removal of stitches, or other treatment, they have had time to reflect on the cause of their injuries, and this offers an excellent opportunity for clinic nurses to motivate them to drink sensibly."

Nurses training

The call was backed by the College of Emergency Medicine, whose president, Dr John Heyworth, said that many of those suffering alcohol-related injuries were now the "educated middle class and elderly".

"It is essential that we are thinking about how we can intervene and help curb this behaviour long term."

Janet Davies, from the Royal College of Nursing, said that it had recently accredited a training course to help nurses intervene at the right moment.

She said: "The time nurses spend with patients during follow-up appointments provides a valuable window of opportunity to encourage people to think about whether they might be drinking too much and to signpost them to further information and advice."



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