Alcohol abuse screening plans blocked by NICE GPs

Plans for practices to screen every patient who visits A&E with a minor injury for alcohol abuse have been blocked by NICE GP experts worried by the impact on workload.

NICE had proposed QOF indicators for targeted screening and brief intervention for alcohol abuse at a meeting of an independent advisory committee in Manchester on Wednesday.

The targets would see GPs paid to detect and offer brief interventions for alcohol abuse. Patients considered for the screening include those with mental illness, gastrointestinal conditions or hypertension, or new registrants.

Controversially, those with minor injuries were also suggested. This would require GPs to call all patients who had attended A&E with a minor injury into surgery for alcohol abuse screening.

The committee was presented with evidence from an unpublished RCT that showed targeted screening could detect a higher proportion of at-risk patients than population-level screening.

But the committee voted to suspend the measure for further review. Members said they had yet to see sufficient evidence showing that targeted screening and brief intervention could successfully tackle the problem of alcohol misuse.

GP committee members were also concerned over the workload effect of screening patients with minor injuries.

Although put on hold, the plans may yet be added to the QOF and NICE's internal team will  present further evidence at a meeting of the committee in December.

The UK National Screening Committee rejected population-level screening in December 2011.

NICE's advisory committee agreed to pilot QOF targets for ambulatory BP monitoring and better support for dementia carers at Wednesday's meeting.

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