Despite national targets to reduce excessive drinking in Scotland, rates have increased dramatically since the mid-eighties. The role of Accident and Emergency (A&E) departments in the management of alcohol misuse is much debated. This postal survey was conducted with senior medical and nursing staff in A&E departments and minor injury units throughout Scotland to examine the prevalence of alcohol-related attendances and staff’s attitudes towards identifying and responding to alcohol-related attendances. A 57% response rate was achieved, representing 87% of all A&E institutions in Scotland (n = 84). The results reveal an estimated 1 in 7 attendances in A&E in Scotland are alcohol-related, and 1 in 5 of these result in admission. However, over two-fifths of departments do not routinely screen for, or keep records of, patients who attend with alcohol problems. Intervention is normally limited to a brief dialogue and referral to the patient’s GP. Despite considerable barriers, A&E nursing staff express a willingness to assume a preventive role, but acknowledge lack of appropriate training and sources of support. It is concluded that there is scope for developing identification and brief intervention services within A&E. However, such developments are dependent upon alcohol issues assuming a higher priority among senior A&E staff.
- alcohol misuse
- accident and emergency