May 28

Should your GP question your drinking?

Well the answer is yes, according to a UK committee of MP’s and peers from an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Misuse.

The group is concerned that a large number of heavy, or risky drinkers are going largely unnoticed by their GP and other medical professionals since they don’t fit the usual stereotypes of problem drinkers, or fall outside the high priority intervention areas such as binge drinkers or teenage drinkers. The hard working professional who routinely opens a bottle (or two) of wine each evening after a long day at the office, or the retired couple who enjoy a “nightcap” or three, for instance.

Should your GP question your drinking?Apparently almost a quarter of the UK population falls into the ‘risky’ category, and although they may not be seen as alcoholics, they are still putting themselves at greater danger of heart attack, stroke and various forms of cancer.

The idea, according to the committee, is that many of these people may not know that they are drinking dangerously and that if their doctor were to ask them about their drinking habits, and then have a quiet word if they were drinking too much, then they would be nudged back onto the path of righteousness and the NHS would save millions into the bargain, as it would reduce the number of people ending up in hospital with alcohol-related conditions.


Hang on a minute! Can they really be serious?

Firstly, who are this mysterious group of drinkers who guzzle back a bottle of wine or two a night and yet don’t have at least a tiny inkling that this might not be terribly good for them? And if they really are that much in denial, how would they react to being challenged about it by their doctor, especially if they only went to see him in the first place to ask for some pile cream?

Although your average GP might be willing to ask a question or two about your drinking if you turned up reeking of booze with a nose like Rudolph, they are far less likely to challenge what appears on the surface to be a fine upstanding member of the community with such a preposterous question – it just wouldn’t be British!

And how many people, knowing that they probably drink too much for their own good would openly admit this to their doctor? Not to suggest that they tell a lie of course, but they are more likely to answer a specific question with a general answer.

 “So, Mrs Jones, how much alcohol would you say you drank on a weekly basis?”

“Oh, you know, I sometimes have a glass of wine or two over dinner (I’m very sophisticated) or maybe the odd G&T at the weekend, but never anything excessive (I’m very responsible)”.

And the doctor, who probably has no idea how many units of alcohol this actually constitutes, moves on, relieved that he doesn’t have to proceed any further into these uncomfortable and uncharted waters.

Commenting on these proposals, Eric Appleby of the charity Alcohol Concern said: ‘Early intervention is an effective way of preventing people developing risky drinking patterns, and it promises great savings to the Health Service. It is essential that the resources are made available to roll out this approach across the country, which will include professional training and an appropriate screening procedure to identify those who may need support.’

Entirely laudable one may think; screen out all those poor souls who need help, even those who may not even know they have a problem. But the big question is, “Then what?”

By putting additional resources in at the front end of the problem, aren’t the Government and its long-awaited Alcohol Strategy, putting the cart before the horse? Rather than further clogging up the bottle neck that has been caused by woefully inadequate Alcohol and Drug support services in the NHS, shouldn’t they be pumping our cash into the back end of the system, to help those most in need, who genuinely do have a problem?

Supporters of the new proposals include the think tank 2020 Health which has called for greater use of so-called ‘brief interventions’, which they say have been shown to reduce risky drinking, with an average reduction of five units per week.

5 units a week!??! – well whoopee do! For someone with an alcohol problem that’s probably one swig less a week!

Meanwhile there are the chronic but functioning alcoholics who readily admit they have a problem which they desperately want to overcome. They actively seek help and openly admit their drinking behaviour to their doctor, but simply get parked on a lengthy waiting list for a service which even if they do eventually get to experience, is so poorly funded it is unlikely to be able to offer them any real help.

Why then, instead of the obsessive nannying of the masses, and tinkering at the extremes of the problem, doesn’t the Government finally put the funding at the heart of the issue; to provide real and meaningful help to solve the problems of those who are most in need? Could it be because they don’t actually have an answer to the problem?

The next time you visit your doctor don’t be too concerned if he asks you about your drinking habits, because in all honesty he probably doesn’t really want to know the answer!

Permanent link to this article: http://kick-the-drink.co.uk/archives/1697

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Wordpress SEO Plugin by SEOPressor