A consultation on UK-wide guidelines for the clinical treatment of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence has been launched by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Developed in partnership with the UK‘s devolved administrations, the guidelines include advice for alcohol care in acute hospitals as well as other settings such as primary care, community health services and the criminal justice system.
‘Patients with alcohol use disorder present to acute hospitals with a wide range of primary diagnoses and the presence of alcohol use disorder may not always be obvious to the patient or to clinical staff,‘ the guidance states.
It therefore emphasises the need for hospitals to have staff with appropriate skills to identify alcohol use disorders, assess risk and provide specialist treatment interventions.
The importance of implementing a system for identifying health risk from alcohol and gauging the severity of alcohol use disorder among all hospital inpatients is also highlighted as this may impact a patient‘s treatment, recovery and risk of complications.
The guidelines also outline key factors in dealing with acute or medically assisted alcohol withdrawal, managing associated complications and treating patients with co-occurring physical and mental health conditions, including those in crisis.
The need for a seamless transition to ongoing treatment in mental health and community services when discharged is also detailed, with integrated planning identified as a priority to ensure effective wrap-around care.
According to the DHSC, the main aim of the guidelines is to develop a ‘clearer consensus’ on good practice and how to implement NICE-recommended interventions.
The consultation will be open for eight weeks, inviting views from people working in alcohol treatment, the wider health and care sector and those with lived experience of alcohol dependence across the UK.
Neil O’Brien, minister for public health, said: ’This consultation will help us develop guidance to ensure alcohol treatment services are of consistently high quality, providing stronger pathways to recovery for those in need of treatment for alcohol dependence.’
In May, ministers were accused of not taking alcohol harm seriously enough after a new report revealed that over the last two decades the number of alcohol-related deaths rose by 89% and was continuing to rise sharply since the start of the pandemic.
Despite this, the report found that a ‘staggering’ 82% of dependent drinkers were not in treatment despite success rates of 60% and evidence that treatment delivers £3 of benefit for every £1 invested.
A recent study revealed that one in two people will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime, with depression and anxiety being the most common illnesses. It also found that mental health disorders varied between men and women, with men more likely to suffer from alcohol abuse.