Every patient has their own, very different story. Alcohol dependence is a chronic, relapsing illness like many other health conditions. Taking a moment to understand this may help to improve longer-term outcomes and reduce re-attendance. This training will be of interest to all NHS staff who come into contact with patients – from receptionists to A&E clinicians, nurses, hospital consultants, junior doctors, hospital porters and beyond.
Alcohol related hospital admissions have doubled in the last eight years in England and nationally, alcohol related deaths have increased by 13% since 2004. People who attend hospital with alcohol problems are often not yet linked into specialist community addiction services. They may have many co-existing physical and mental problems (comorbidity) and other social support needs that prevent them from easily accessing appropriate care – often referred to as complex needs patients. The harms they suffer can be as a direct or indirect result of their alcohol problem; many serious health conditions can be caused directly by excessive alcohol consumption, and other health issues exacerbated.
Sometimes people with alcohol problems can be stereotyped, and judged to be less worthy of excellent treatment and care. Such stigma can be a barrier to help-seeking. It also impacts on treatment outcomes, and diminishes patients’ feelings of empowerment.
Frontline NHS staff regularly come into contact with patients with alcohol problems. While a small group of NHS professionals are specifically trained in addictions or alcohol, many frontline staff will have received little or no specialist training in this area. The new national NHS Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUINs) payments framework for 2017-19 incentivises certain secondary healthcare clinicians to enquire about patients’ alcohol use, leading to possible brief intervention or referral to appropriate care.