Study by QA Hospital shows screening for alcohol misuse can help save lives

QA has been running a survey into alcohol and hospital admissions Picture posed by model
QA has been running a survey into alcohol and hospital admissions Picture posed by model
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SCREENING for alcohol misuse could prevent drink-related deaths, a study has found.

Researchers at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Queen Alexandra Hospital, is now calling for universal screening to identify increasing or high risk alcohol harm.

Our study shows that universal screening for alcohol misuse among patients admitted to Acute Medical Units is both achievable and can help target interventions.

Richard Aspinall

The study analysed more than 50,000 hospital admissions over three years and found, per year, around 1,000 ‘at risk’ patients were identified and assessed by an alcohol interventions team.

Portsmouth is one of the worst areas for alcohol-related harm, including deaths from alcohol-related liver disease, at 15.2 per cent per 100,0000 people under 75.

This is compared to 5.7 per cent per 100,000 people in Hampshire and 8.7 per cent nationally.

In the study, investigators showed patients can be categorised based on a risk score to identify people with high rates of A&E attendance, recurrent hospital admissions and high risk of alcohol-related liver disease.

These patients can then be selectively targeted with effective treatments for alcohol misuse, potentially reducing the burden of alcohol-related harm on the NHS.

Lead investigator Richard Aspinall, consultant hepatologist at QA Hospital, said: ‘Many people who die from alcoholic liver disease have a history of alcohol misuse and recurrent hospital admissions, each representing a potential missed opportunity for effective intervention.

‘Our study shows that universal screening for alcohol misuse among patients admitted to Acute Medical Units is both achievable and can help target interventions.

‘By classifying patients according to their risk of alcohol harm, we can ensure they receive the appropriate therapies that will potentially reduce the risk of further adverse events in future.’

For the data, the study looked at patients admitted to A&E at QA Hospital.

The admitting nurse recorded type of alcohol consumed, frequency, maximum daily amount, whether the admission was considered alcohol-related and they also documented signs of alcohol withdrawal.

Additional data was recorded on admission diagnoses, alcohol unit consumption, previous attendances, previous admissions, length of stay, and mortality.

Of these admissions 2.3 per cent were classified as ‘increasing’ and four per cent as ‘high’ risk of alcohol harm. Compared to the other groups, ‘high’ risk patients had a distinct profile of admissions with the most common diagnoses being mental health disorders, gastrointestinal bleeding, poisoning, and liver disease.