Alcohol campaigners call for bespoke service for repeat admissions

Study found 13 of 20 people struggling with addiction had past experiences of trauma, such as instances of abuse or loss.

Scottish alcohol campaigners call for bespoke service for repeat admissions Getty Images

Alcohol campaigners have called for a dedicated service to aid the recovery of people frequently admitted to hospital due to addiction.

Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems (SHAAP) – a group of clinicians pushing for improved services for users – made the call after commissioning a study of alcohol frequent attenders (AFAs).

Conducted by the University of the West of Scotland, the study spoke to 20 AFAs – those who had been admitted to hospital for alcohol related issues 10 times in the previous year or three times in the previous three months – at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, Renfrewshire.

The study, published on Thursday, found that all participants had previously been treated for alcohol dependence, 13 of the 20 reported experiences of trauma in their past, predominantly instances of abuse or loss.

In their interviews, one participant said: “I lost a baby when I just about eight months pregnant – which led to drink on and off.”

Another added: “I lost my home, I lost my job, lost my car, my family.”

And a third said: “I was sexually abused by a family friend when I was very young.”

The service suggested by SHAAP should have a particular focus on the mental health and trauma needs of users, as well as the impact of gender, the campaigners said.

Dr Mathis Heydtmann, a consultant hepatologist who previously worked at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and one of the authors of the report, said: “Alcohol frequent hospital attenders represent a population of long-term, harmful and dependent drinkers, who present with wide-ranging and complex needs, sometimes in crisis.

“Their impact on both emergency departments and hospital admissions is very significant.

“Throughout my medical career, I have witnessed this first-hand.

“A unique service dedicated to helping people with alcohol problems who repeatedly arrive at the hospital entrance would help to prevent further admissions, would reduce the strain on the NHS and would save lives.”

Dr Alastair MacGilchrist, the chair of SHAAP, said: “This study makes clear that it is essential that people who are frequently attending hospital due to alcohol are identified as early as possible, and that a rapidly available, effective treatment service should then swing into action.

“This service should be tailored to the specific needs of this complex group, ensuring that no patient falls between the cracks of services in the future.

“The upcoming UK Alcohol Treatment guidelines should address multifaceted groups like alcohol frequent attenders specifically and must aim to mitigate against barriers which they experience in accessing treatment.”

And Ken Barrie, a senior lecturer and another author of the report, called on the Scottish Government to “ensure that alcohol treatment services and mental health services work together effectively to guarantee that there truly is a ‘no wrong door’ policy and individuals do not continue to fall between the cracks”.

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