All NHS hospitals need to appoint an alcohol liaison officer to help patients in casualty come to terms with their drink problems, a senior emergency consultant has said.
Time spent in accident and emergency after accidents and binges represents a “teachable moment” when drinkers can be persuaded to understand the damage they are doing to their health, said Dr Zul Mirza, president of the Royal Society of Medicine’s emergency medicine section.
He told the society at a conference that the move could help reduce problem drinking and cut admissions to casualty linked to alcohol.
Dr Mirza, a consultant at West Middlesex Hospital in London, said research in Scotland and the US has found that if patients speak to an alcohol liaison officer after attending A&E with a drink-related problem, they are less likely to need casualty treatment again in the future and more likely to drink less over the following year.
“There is a window of opportunity where these patients are receptive to changing their patterns of drinking and understanding more about alcohol,” Dr Mirza told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“It is a teachable moment because it is a very brief period where they are receptive and susceptible to understanding they have a problem.
“The research shows that a lot of these patients who arrive in emergency departments don’t realise that the reason they are there is because they have an alcohol problem.”