Help for problem drinkers

Patients at Norfolk's busiest accident and emergency department with alcohol-related illnesses and injuries will be offered help if they are found to have a binge-drinking problem.

Patients at Norfolk's busiest accident and emergency department with alcohol-related illnesses and injuries will be offered help if they are found to have a binge-drinking problem.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital have launched a screening project so patients will be questioned to find out if they are drinking too much and offered help, treatment and advice if needed.

More than 72,000 people a year visit the A&E department. In about 40pc of cases, rising to 70pc at peak times late night on Fridays and Saturdays, alcohol is a factor.

The screening tool, the Paddington Alcohol Test (PAT), was developed at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, London.

The N&N is the first hospital in the region to pilot the scheme with the aim of educating people about health risks and intervening early if drinking is at a harmful level.

Julia France and Sarah Dunbar, substance misuse liaison nurses working for Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Trust at the N&N, have developed the N&N screening system.

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Ms France said: “Our aim is to offer help to people who have ended up in A&E as a result of their drinking and 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 judgments or being critical but about helping someone realise there may be a problem and offering support to deal with it.”

Patients whose accident or illness is clearly not related to alcohol will not be screened but anyone who has obviously been drinking will be seen by an alcohol misuse nurse. They will be asked four questions, including how much they have had to drink and how often they drink this amount.

PAT-positive patients will be given an information leaflet and offered a follow-up appointment with the substance misuse nurses.

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