Specialist nurses at forefront of alcohol abuse proposals

Specialist nurses could lead a push to reduce the damage caused by alcohol misuse, a report proposes.

Alcohol abuse is linked to 40,000 deaths and costs the NHS £2.7 billion per year, according to a report from British Society of Gastroenterology, the Alcohol Health Alliance UK and the British Association for Study of the Liver.

Authors have called for a co-ordinated approach to tackle alcohol-related disease.

The report proposed 11 recommendations, including establishing an alcohol care team to co-ordinate alcohol-related care across hospitals and the community. An alcohol specialist nurse would work with a designated consultant lead and offer an outreach service.

Authors claim the recommendations would cut alcohol related hospital admissions by 5% and save each district general hospital £1.6 million annually.

The report, ‘Alcohol Related Diseases - Meeting the challenge of improved quality of care and better use of resources', also said PCTs should re-assess alcohol-related spending.

Currently, 13-20% of all hospital admissions are alcohol-related, yet PCTs spend just 0.1% of budgets on alcohol services every year.

Professor Ian Gilmore, chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance and president of Royal College of Physicians, said: ‘Education of the public about alcohol and alcohol-related problems is essential for to our long-term health, but it will take many years to have a major impact.'

He added: ‘Therefore, we really do need to evaluate the treatment services that are currently in place, if we are to ever address the effects of Britain's alcohol epidemic on our hospitals and on the health of our nation.'

Speaking at the British Society of Gastroenterology's Annual Meeting in Liverpool, Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb said the report was a ‘valuable contribution' to the debate over alcohol. He said his party supported the case for minimum pricing of alcohol.

He criticised the current government and opposition for not confronting the problem and drew attention to the different approach to illegal drug abuse.

Stephen Robinson

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