Hospitals to target alcohol abuse via emergency departments

FRONTLINE hospital staff are planning to tackle the problem of alcohol abuse directly with patients who attend emergency departments.

A report from the Health Research Board showed that alcohol consumption in Ireland has increased by 17% over the past 11 years, from 11.5 litres per adult in 1995 to 13.4 litres in 2006 — well above the EU average.

Alcohol-related hospital admissions increased by 88% between 1995 and 2004.

The problem places a huge strain on the country’s medical system. But staff in the Emergency Department (ED) of Cork University Hospital (CUH) have helped develop a national initiative that will see emergency staff around the country raising the issue of alcohol consumption with patients they are concerned about.

They will provide health information and support to patients who want to change their alcohol use, plus advice on accessing further support services

The resources — a training DVD, posters and alcohol booklet — developed by the HSE South’s Emergency, Liaison Psychiatry and Health Promotion Departments, will be officially launched at CUH on Thursday.

They will be distributed to EDs around the country.

Paula Bradshaw, a clinical nurse manager at CUH, said almost a third of visits to hospital emergency units are alcohol related.

“However, it is well documented that patients are more likely to start along a cycle of change in a hospital setting when encouraged by a health professional,” she said.

The short DVD, which was developed specifically so that ED staff would not be taken away from their duties, outlines several approaches they can use when raising the issue of alcohol with patients.

The posters, which will be displayed in EDs, explain what a standard drink is.

The alcohol pocket booklet provides information on safe drinking levels as well as information on support services.

The National Health information Line on 1850 24 1850, (8am to 8pm, Monday to Saturday) gives details on local support services.


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