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"Hazardous" drinking in minor injuries unit similar to that of emergency care

“Hazardous” drinking in minor injuries unit similar to that of emergency care
The number and profile of “hazardous” drinkers turning up to an urban minor injuries unit is similar to that seen in emergency care, suggesting these units may be equally suitable for targeted interventions on alcohol, according to research from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London. 

Minor injuries units—which offer rapid treatment to patients with less serious injuries—were developed to ease the pressures faced by emergency care departments, where around one in five patients has a minor injury.

Dr Robert Patton, from the Addictions Department at the Institute of Psychiatry and first author of the study, says: "Although MIUs are not set up to specifically treat alcohol problems, this pilot study demonstrates they are an appropriate location to identify patients who might benefit from some help or advice about their drinking, and suggests that with appropriate training MIU staff could then direct them toward appropriate services."

The researchers collected data from adults attending a major London hospital’s minor injuries unit (MIU) over a period of four weeks. The research was published online in Emergency Medicine Journal.
 
During the study period, 1000 people visited the MIU, 315 of whom were approached to take part in the research. Some 192 agreed to do so.
 
Of these, more than 7 out of 10 (72%) admitted to drinking alcohol, with half (49%) admitting to drinking at least 8+ units for men and 6+ for women in one session—double the daily recommended amount.
 
One in three patients said that they consumed this amount of alcohol on one or more occasions every week, while 10 patients (5.3%) attributed their MIU visit to their drinking.
 
Overall, 69 people (36%) were identified as “hazardous” drinkers—drinking quantities which put them at risk of future harm. But just 3.3% accepted the offer of help or advice.
 
MIUs are run by emergency nurse practitioners, and the authors note that four out of the 25 staff said that they did not feel the MIU was an appropriate location for offering advice and support to problem drinkers. But the authors point out that such intervention works well in emergency care and that staff need to be trained to pick up patients who are putting themselves at risk in this way. 

For full paper: Patton, R. et al. ‘Hazardous drinking among patients attending a minor injuries unit: a pilot study’ Emergency Medicine Journal (2011) doi 10.1136/emermed-2011-200534

For more information, please contact Seil Collins, Press Officer, Institute of Psychiatry, email: seil.collins@kcl.ac.uk or tel: 0207 848 5377
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