Doctors 'miss alcohol problems'

Doctors are missing opportunities to help people with alcohol problems, according to a new report.

Report: clinicians fail to offer appropriate treatment

Clinicians miss ideal opportunities to offer treatment to patients with alcohol-related problems, according to the co-author of the report.

Dr Mark Juniper, the clinical co-ordinator at NCEPOD, said:

Patients weren't asked in detail about their history of alcohol, drinking and whether it was likely to be doing them harm. And even when they were, they weren't then referred on for support to stop drinking.

If we can get people to stop drinking that will have a big impact on alcohol-related diseases, and ultimately it will save lives.

– Dr Mark Juniper, co-author of the report

More calls for NHS to move to a 24/7 service

by - Former Science and Medical Editor

This survey is called the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcomes and Deaths, and because it is confidential doctors can be much more open and honest about the treatment that patients get.

In this case Doctors reviewed the case notes of 385 patients who were admitted to hospital for alcohol-related disease, and they found that 25 per cent of them did not even see the right consultant, while less than half received good treatment.

The authors of this report have a list of recommendations, but for a start they want to make sure that every patient who goes to hospital with an alcohol-related problem, is referred to a support service which can help them cut down or stop drinking.

The problem is most hospitals have these support units but they are not open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week when patients turn up at A&E on a Saturday night.

They are not there when patients need them.

Authors of the report want every patient admitted to be referred to a support service.
Authors of the report want every patient admitted to be referred to a support service. Credit: Johnny Green/PA Wire

This is one of several reports we have seen in the last few weeks which wants the NHS to move to becoming much more of a 24/7 service.

The difficulty when moving to 24/7 service is that the NHS has to save £20 billion by the year after next.

If hospitals move to 24/7 services, that nearly always means they have to hire extra staff. That costs more money and it doesn't look good on the balance sheet.

Even though in the long run they could save money because if patients are treated properly now, fewer of them will need to be readmitted in the future and even though it could be much better for patients.

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'Shocking loss of life' from alcohol misuse

The British Medical Association has called on doctors to act now to prevent the "shocking loss of life" that occurs as a result of alcohol misuse.

The report found that even though three-quarters had been admitted to hospital on more than one occasion, a third of patients were never referred on to alcohol support services to help treat their drinking habits.

Dr Vivienne Nathanson, the British Medical Association's director, said the report highlights how hospital services are struggling to cope before calling on the government to introduce interventions such as minimum unit price for alcohol to help save lives.

"It is tragic that so many of these individuals are suffering from preventable illness. We must act now to prevent this shocking loss of life as a result of alcohol misuse."

Alcohol deaths 'could be avoided'

The report suggests that doctors can do more to help people with alcohol problems.
The report suggests that doctors can do more to help people with alcohol problems. Credit: David Jones/PA Wire

Doctors are missing opportunities to help people with alcohol problems, according to a new report.

Researchers from the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death found that out of 385 patients who died from alcohol-liver disease across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, 135 cases represented a missed opportunity to influence the health of the patient.

As many as 32 deaths could have been avoided, while only half the cases reviewed received "good care".