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Royal society calls for alcohol liaison officer in all A&E departments

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All NHS hospitals should appoint an alcohol liaison officer to assist patients in A&E come to terms with their drink problems, a senior emergency consultant has said.

Time spent in A&E after accidents and binge-drinking 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.

Dr Mirza will tell a society conference that the move could help reduce problem drinking and cut alcohol-related casualty admissions.

Dr Mirza, a consultant at West Middlesex Hospital in London, said that research in Scotland and America 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 the 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.”

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