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Nurses pilot fast alcohol abuse screening tool

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Nurses are using a screening tool that can detect alcohol abuse in just 30 seconds in a pilot study at a North London acute trust.

The Paddington Alcohol Test (PAT) – a five-part questionnaire – has been used by A&E nurses at Barnet General Hospital for the past six months.

All patients – particularly those who present with one of the ‘top 10 reasons for attendance’ such as a fall, head injury or psychiatric problem – are screened by a nurse to determine if they are drinking to harmful or hazardous levels.

Over 1,000 patients have been screened since the tool was implemented in May, with 75 patients referred to the alcohol liaison nurse.

‘The PAT tool creates an opportunity for the nurse to teach the patient, get them thinking about their drinking and sow the seeds of change by cutting down to a sensible limit before they put their health at any greater risk,’ said Zaby Begum, alcohol liaison nurse at the trust, who teaches staff how to use the tool.

Ms Begum runs half-day workshops, teaching staff about alcohol awareness and trains them how to use the tool so that if a patient is considered ‘PAT positive’ the nurse is able to either offer brief advice or refer them to specialist services. Over half of all A&E staff have been trained since July this year.

‘We are only six months into the pilot but the reception from the A&E nurses has been excellent,’ said Ms Begum.

‘The tool is very quick, easy to use and doesn’t add to their workload.’

Ms Begum is adapting the PAT for use on wards, and an e-learning version of the tool is due to be launched by the government next month.

The Department of Health has encouraged practice nurses to incorporate similar alcohol risk assessment tools into their work (NT News, 7 October, p6).

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