Psychiatric nurses to treat Northamptonshire patients with serious alcohol problems

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PATIENTS suffering serious drink-related injuries will be assessed at A&E by mental health nurses as part of a scheme to crack Northamptonshire’s growing alcohol problem.

Experts revealed in 2009 that the cost to Northamptonshire of alcohol abuse, including road accidents, crimes arising from drunkenness and extra healthcare, was a staggering £200 million a year.

NHS Northamptonshire announced yesterday that an ‘enhanced alcohol service’ would begin to reduce the figure and the harm drink can cause to county residents.

One idea is to station psychiatric nurses at A&E to assess patients who present with injuries or illnesses caused by excessive drinking.

They will be looking for signs of alcoholism, which can then be treated as a mental health issue with the hope of stopping further excessive drinking. Carrying this out at the beginning of the hospital stay will also help shorten costly hospital stays.

NHS Northamptonshire bosses said this initiative, coupled with helping people prevent a relapse using clinics and surgeries rather than hospitals, will help prevent the current £2.9 million annual bill - arising from more than five drink-related admissions a day -from mounting further, and hopefully reduce it. Currently, although the rate of increase each year is half the national average, the cost is forecast to rise to £4.4 million by 2015.

When the county drink bill was revealed in 2009, there were 90,000 people harming themselves through alcohol and 3,500 who needed a drink to get up in the morning.

Dr Peter Wilczynski, chairman of Corby Healthcare, one of the GP groups set to take control of the NHS budget, said: “We hope that by having in place better community-based treatment services, less people will have to be admitted to hospital for the more expensive in-patient treatments.

“Equally, enabling mental health triage assessments within A&E will ensure patients receive a more timely mental health assessment and a reduction in the number of days they stay in hospital.”