Tackling alcohol abuse

People treated in hospital clinics for injury will be asked a series of questions about their drinking. If there is evidence that they misuse alcohol, they will be offered tailor-made support. University research has discovered that this new approach is effective for patients and cost-effective for the NHS.

The enterprise is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the Welsh Government, the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the University’s Violence and Society Research Group. The University has recruited Dr Paul Jordan to working with Public Health Wales to establish and deliver the new service across the country.

Patients will be asked by clinic nurses to complete a standard questionnaire – the Fast Alcohol Screening Test. If the test flags up a problem, the nurse will talk the patient through their problem, following a psychological approach called FRAMES. The elements are:

  • Feedback – linking in the patient’s mind their injury with their alcohol misuse
  • Responsibility – emphasis that the patient is the only person responsible for their own drinking
  • Advice – dedicated advice for each patient on issues like consumption limits
  • Menu – information about other sources of help and advice
  • Empathy – a sympathetic approach, rather than lecturing the drinker
  • Self-efficacy – emphasising to patients that they can deal with their problem

The scheme draws on the Violence and Society Research Group’s clinical trials of this new approach, delivered by nurses in hospital injury clinics.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd, Director of the Violence and Society Research Group, said: “Alcohol misuse is a major problem in Wales. The death rate is alarming and far too high. The Chief Medical Officer for Wales has identified tackling alcohol misuse as a major priority.

“We know from our own research that most people injured whilst intoxicated are young. Intervening early in a problem drinker’s life can make a real difference.

“Nurses working in injury clinics can be hugely effective in helping patients tackle alcohol misuse. Violence and Society Research Group research shows that this can be done in a practical straightforward way – while the nurse is changing a wound dressing or taking out stitches, for example.

“This is a highly cost-effective measure which over time will make real savings for the NHS. More vitally, it will help provide lasting health benefits for people at risk from their drinking habits and reduce their chances of suffering further injury.”

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Sara Hayes, said: “Evaluations of brief interventions have consistently shown them to be the most effective approach to reducing problem drinking. This Knowledge Transfer Partnership is supported by Public Health Wales and the delivery of training programmes in secondary care.”

Cardiff University