Leading doctors want patients arriving at hospital accident and emergency units to be questioned about their drinking habits in an attempt to cut the NHS's huge bill for treating people with alcohol problems.
The British Society of Gastroenterology is urging ministers to make casualty staff go through a one-minute questionnaire with any patient whose condition is likely to be drink-related. Alcohol is a factor in 35% of all A&E cases, and up to 70% of cases at the weekend. NHS spending on treating such people has risen to £2.7bn annually.
The BSG, which represents 2,700 doctors specialising in alcohol problems, is to call for every NHS hospital to undertake the Paddington alcohol test, which has been shown to identify heavy drinkers and cut their consumption by up to 43%.
In the few hospitals using the test, patients with any of the 10 conditions most commonly associated with alcohol, such as a fall, head injury or accident, are asked the test's three questions: if they drink alcohol; how much and what they drink per day; and how often they drink. The test should be deployed at all NHS casualty units, says the BSG. . . . . .