Move to quiz Lothians A&E patients on drinking habits

PATIENTS attending accident and emergency in Lothians will be quizzed about their drinking habits under new plans.

In an extension of the alcohol "brief intervention" scheme, specialists will be based at the area's casualty wards and pick out people they think may have a drinking problem.

This will include people who are admitted in an intoxicated state as well as those displaying signs of illness relating to alcohol indulgence.

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The move – which has been welcomed by patient groups – is being helped by a 5 million Scottish Government investment in fighting alcohol abuse across the Lothians.

It is hoped thousands of people will be targeted over the next few years as part of the scheme, which has already had some success in GP surgeries across Edinburgh.

Jamie Megaw, strategic programme manager for NHS Lothian, said: "

NHS Lothian is working closely with the alcohol and drug partnerships to improve access to prevention, treatment and support services in order to help people address their excessive drinking habits.

"We will continue to build on the good work of our alcohol brief intervention programme. To date we have successfully delivered over 13,500 interventions and are extending the service to A&E."

Following an initial consultation session the targeted patients are offered appropriate help and advice based on what they need.

This could include counselling to help them beat alcohol addiction, or just information on how to stop a bad habit escalating out of control.

The health board has already carried out around 14,000 interventions through doctors, and it is estimated that those who have willingly engaged have managed to cut their intake by an average of 40 per cent.

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Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, said: "I think this sort of thing helps a great deal.

"Alcoholism is an illness and many people don't realise they have it. The more people get tied up in alcohol the more they are going to need the NHS at a later date.

"They need to be shown what they are doing and told 'you can either be at the back of someone else's coffin, or have someone else at the back of yours'."

Every 90 minutes a person is discharged from a Lothians hospital with a drink-related condition, while NHS bosses said the area has the highest number of men and women who exceed recommended intake on a weekly basis.

It is estimated that alcohol costs NHS Lothian more than 6m a year.

The Conservative's health spokeswoman in Edinburgh, Councillor Kate MacKenzie, said: "I think we have to do everything we can because it takes over people's lives and causes mayhem in others'.

"At A&E they could well catch some people with this that they wouldn't otherwise."