In the NHS, there is widespread agreement that early action to prevent disease, or at least spot it earlier, is beneficial for patients and the health service alike.

But it seems Scottish GPs do not share these sentiments. While it might be seen as an admirable initiative to ask the nation’s family doctors to make more of an effort to identify those patients who drink too much, the clinicians themselves don’t seem to agree.

The problem seems to be that asking patients about their drinking habits will take longer than a 10-minute consultation allows

The Mail on Sunday in Scotland reported that GPs north of the border have been “asked to spy on secret tipplers” and were being “forced to hit innocent patients with a series of intimate questions on their drinking - even if they are being treated for unconnected minor ailments or injuries”.

According to Scottish GPs, this is an outrage, notwithstanding that they’ll get paid £5 a pop for every questionnaire they complete. The problem seems to be that asking patients about their drinking habits will take longer than a 10-minute consultation allows. The paper quotes Royal College of GPs Scotland spokesman Richard Watson: “A lot of GPs feel they are being asked to cure Scotland’s social problems and feel drinking is a public health matter.” Not that GPs at the front line have anything to do with public health, of course.

As well as the Scots coming under pressure to own up to their drinking, The Guardian reports that NHS managers could have some ‘fessing up to do too. Not on drinking (although the figures might make for interesting reading), but when staff make mistakes that injure or kill patients.

The paper says the Department of Health is “considering imposing a legally binding ‘duty of candour’ on hospitals, surgeries and other healthcare providers, ensuring NHS managers admit to patients when an error has led to harm as well as explain exactly what has gone wrong and apologise”.