College comments on alcohol campaigners call for bespoke service for repeat admissions

Online news, Scotland news
27 July 2023

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.

Commenting on the report, Dr Seonaid Anderson, vice-chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists in Scotland, said:

“As addiction psychiatrists working on the frontline, we see many people’s lives blighted by alcohol addiction and this study highlights that there are many improvements needed to help these seriously ill patients.

“We'd agree that services should be targeted to support people with complex mental health needs and trauma – some of whom are often the heaviest users of our services and tend to experience the most harm.

“The Scottish Government should look to improve access to joined up services spanning acute hospital and community settings where several different healthcare professionals come together on a patient’s treatment plan. This is commonplace in England but not so much north of the border.

“One thing is clear, people who are struggling with alcohol addiction need the best possible treatments available to them and they need them now.”

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.”

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