Doctors 'to spy' on drinkers

Doctors trained to help heavy drinkers
Doctors trained to help heavy drinkers

The government wants doctors to 'spy' on patients in a bid to identify problem drinkers.

Public health minister Dawn Primarolo said doctors and nurses should be the "eyes and ears" when it comes to identifying problem drinkers.

Ministers believe this will help reduce the £1.7 billion a year the NHS spends on alcohol abuse.

Doctors will be specially trained to identify and treat patients drinking too much and the government plans for 60,000 new doctors to be taught to spot heavy drinkers over the next decade.

Ms Primarolo said: "It is absolutely essential we give them the training they need to get drinkers the help they need before they become a burden to themselves and the NHS."

Within three years every medical school will be expected to offer alcohol training and existing doctors will be offered the opportunity to gain the additional skills.

The Department of Health (DoH) is making £650,000 available for medical schools to conduct a "scoping exercise" into how alcohol misuse training can be added to the curriculum.

The government estimates ten million people are drinking at a level which does or could cause serious harm and argues it is cost-effective to target them early.

For every £1 invested in treating dependent drinkers, £5 is saved from the public purpose, including £1.65 from the NHS, the DoH estimates.


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