Alcohol screening for A&E patients

People who attend the region's busiest emergency department will be selectively screened for alcohol misuse and offered help and education about the dangers of excess drinking.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital's A&E department sees more than 72,000 people a year and from today, Accident and Emergency staff will be routinely screening patients for evidence of harmful drinking using a quick questionnaire.

Research commissioned by the Cabinet Office in 2004 showed that nationally alcohol was a factor in 40 per cent of A&E attendances rising to 70 per cent at peak times (late night on Fridays and Saturdays).

The new screening tool being used at NNUH is called the Paddington Alcohol Test (PAT) and it was first developed at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London. It involves a series of four quick and simple questions that allow staff to establish how much someone is drinking and to offer help if needed.

The new A&E screening system has been developed by Julia France and Sarah Dunbar, substance misuse liaison nurses who are employed by Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Partnership Trust, but who work at NNUH. They have developed the new system with the Norwich A&E team.

The aim is to educate people about the health risks in a helpful and non-judgemental way and to intervene as early as possible for those people for whom drinking is proving hazardous. If people are PAT positive they are given an information leaflet and will be offered a follow-up appointment with the substance misuse nurses at NNUH.

Julia said: “Our aim is to offer help to those people who have ended up in A&E as a result of their drinking and to just gently raise with them the fact that they are drinking at a level that could be harming their health. The screening is designed to pick up those people who might be termed binge drinkers. It is not about making judgements or being critical but about helping someone realise there may be a problem and offering support to deal with it.”  

Penny McVeigh, chair of Alcohol Concern, said: “We welcome this important new initiative which allows information on health risks to be given to individuals at a moment when they may be particularly receptive to thinking about how alcohol may be impacting on their health and wellbeing.”

Monday 22nd of January 2007 10:00:46 AM