PROBLEM DRINKING: Call for alcohol addiction nurses at GP surgeries

By Lucy Ashton

Guinness might not always be good for you. And whisky and beer also fall into the category that people drink appropriately.

Alcohol problems could be tackled by placing more specialist addiction nurses at GP surgeries in deprived areas, researchers have found.

The study found Scotland’s Primary Care Alcohol Nurse Outreach Service was seen positively by staff and patients.

The researchers, from Dundee and Stirling universities, called for the scheme to be expanded.

The Scottish government welcomed the report and said it would “carefully consider” the findings.

The report was commissioned by Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems to look at GPs in Glasgow.

The research explored perceptions of the Primary Care Alcohol Nurse Outreach Service (PCANOS) – which has an addictions nurse embedded at GPs serving Scotland’s 100 most disadvantaged populations.

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The primary aim of the PCANOS is to reach patients with alcohol problems who are not engaging specialist community alcohol services.

Principal researcher Dr Andrea Mohan, from the University of Dundee, said people from deprived backgrounds “continued to suffer serious harms” due to alcohol.

She added: “Supporting this group can be challenging as they often have complex health and social needs, and find it difficult to access appropriate services.

“It is crucial that a service like PCANOS continues to be funded as our study has shown that it is filling an important gap in alcohol service provision in Glasgow.”

‘Innovative services’

The study found that the PCANOS project led to faster referrals and co-ordinated care between GP services and wider community services after discharge.

In 2020, according to National Records of Scotland data, 1,190 people died from alcohol-related deaths in Scotland. Deaths were 4.3 times higher in the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland.

Elinor Jayne, director of Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems, said investing in the project could reduce the burden on other NHS services.

She said: “Alcohol harm disproportionately affects people living in Scotland’s most disadvantaged communities, so targeted, innovative services such as this addictions nurse model are to be celebrated.”

Public Health Minister, Maree Todd, pictured above right, said the Scottish government would “carefully consider” the report, as it highlighted the need for more research into the effectiveness of these services.

She said: “We’re determined to reduce harms where they are greatest and have announced increased investment in tackling problematic alcohol and drug use – including potential restrictions on alcohol advertising, reviewing minimum unit pricing and improving health information on product labels.”

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