NHS should change data gathering methods to curb alcoholism, NICE say

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is asking health professionals to improve the way they gather certain pieces of information, in a move that could level out health inequalities and boost outcomes.

As part of a new draft quality standard, NICE recommend that any information gathered on how much and how often people drink alcohol should be correctly and appropriately stored.

This comes after some of the latest data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities revealed that, of the 602,391 alcohol-dependent people in need of specialist treatment in England during 2018-19, only 28% were receiving treatment.

As a result, NICE is requesting everyone from primary and secondary care services all the way to community and voluntary services to ensure they have the requisite systems in place for efficient alcohol questionnaires. Abbreviated versions should also be made available if time is limited, NICE say.

Crucially, NICE emphasise that its new draft quality standard isn’t asking health professionals to perform additional work, but to work in a manner that ensures people in desperate need of help don’t fall through the cracks and can get the help they need. This includes stopping repetitive questions about general alcohol use.

NICE’s Centre for Guidelines Director, Dr Paul Chrisp, said: “Many of us are asked about our alcohol use when we interact with health services, but if an appropriate questionnaire is not used, people with alcohol problems could be slipping through the net and may not be receiving the support they need.

“We know a large number of people who are dependent of alcohol are not receiving treatment and this could be for a variety of reasons, but as part of a health and care system that continually learns from data, we do know that using a validated questionnaire provides commissioners with the information they need to organise appropriate services.”

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