GPs to screen for alcohol abuse risk

GPs will be asked to identify and advise patients at risk of harm from alcohol abuse under NICE guidance launched this week.

GPs will identify alcohol abusers (Photograph: SPL)
GPs will identify alcohol abusers (Photograph: SPL)

Patients presenting with symptoms linked to alcohol misuse, such as hypertension or sleeping disorders, should be asked about alcohol intake and advised on ways to cut down, NICE said.

The guideline also recommends setting a minimum price per unit for alcohol, as well as controls on advertising and availability.

Practices will also be asked to use a certified alcohol consumption questionnaire to identify at-risk patients.

Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, said practices would control how the guidance worked. 'It is for practice to determine how best to implement the guideline,' he said.

RCGP chair Professor Steve Field welcomed the report and said GPs witness first hand the 'dreadful physical and emotional toll' of alcohol misuse in the community.

'The clear signposting to other health and support services will also help GPs across the country decide on the right course of action for patients, appropriate to their age and the extent of their problem,' he said.

NICE also unveiled guidance for treating the complications of alcohol abuse, including advice on patients referrals.

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