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Alcohol identification and intervention in English emergency departments
  1. Robert Patton,
  2. Ghiselle Green
  1. Department of Psychological Interventions, School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Robert Patton, School of Psychology, University of Surrey, Guildford GU2 7XH, UK; r.patton{at}


Aims In the ED, alcohol identification and brief advice is an effective method of reducing consumption and related harms. Our objective was to conduct a national survey of English EDs to determine current practice regarding alcohol identification and provision of brief advice and to compare changes in activity to a previous National Survey conducted in 2011.

Methods This was a cross-sectional survey of all consultant-led EDs in England.

Results Of 180 departments, 147 (81.6%) responded. All departments may question adult patients about their alcohol consumption, with many (63.6%) asking all patients aged over 18 years as part routine care and using a formal screening tool (61.4%). The majority of departments asked young people (aged 11–17 years) about their consumption (83.8%), but only 11.6% did so as a part of routine practice. Compared with the 2011 survey, there have been significant increases in routine screening among adults (15.9%, CI 4.16% to 27.18%; p=0.006), general practitioners being informed about patients’alcohol-related presentations (10.2%, CI 0.64% to 19.58%; p=0.028) and access to an alcohol health worker or a clinical nurse specialist (13.4%, CI 3.64% to 22.91%, p=0.005). Modest (non-significant) changes were also found in access to training on brief advice (9.7%) and the use of formal screening questions on adult patients (9.7%).

Conclusion Alcohol screening together with referral or intervention is becoming part of routine practice in England. Compared with our previous national survey, increases in alcohol screening and intervention activity are demonstrated, with improvements in routine questioning (among adults), the number of general practitioners being informed about alcohol-related attendances, provision of training, access to specialist services and the use of formal screening tools.

  • Alcohol
  • Emergency Department
  • Screening
  • Intervention
  • England
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  • Contributors RP conceived the study, obtained funding, collected data. analysed results and prepared the final manuscript based on an earlier report to the funder (available from the Alcohol Research UK website) as a requirement of the grant process.

    GG reviewed relevant literature, analysed results and prepared the final manuscript.

  • Funding This study was funded by a Small Grant from Alcohol Research UK (SG 14/15 200).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent This was an audit of current activity and as such did not collect participant details.

  • Ethics approval University of Surrey Ethics Committee.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement Additional unpublished data from the survey is found in our report to funders: The Third National Emergency Department Survey of Alcohol Identification and Intervention Activity which can be downloaded here:

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