Training key to boosting alcohol brief interventions

Targeted training leads to a ‘significant increase’ in the delivery of alcohol brief interventions in primary care, according to new research. Specifically trained nurse mentors are able to play a key role in leading and delivering interventions and brief advice (IBA), says the study, which was funded by Alcohol Research UK and conducted by SMMGP.

Even provision of a ‘relatively low level of support’ to nurse mentors can lead to a significant increase in the delivery of IBA, it says. Supporting nurse mentors to lead on their implementation can help reduce alcohol-related harm ‘within existing resources’ in primary care settings, while awareness raising and training across the practice also help staff become better at both identifying harm and providing effective advice to those at risk.

NICE guidelines urge the prioritisation of IBA as an ‘invest to save’ measure, as around one in eight ‘higher or increasing risk drinkers’ receiving it go on to lower their consumption levels. However uptake in primary care has been patchy through a combination of issues such as perceived lack of staff support, confidentiality concerns, low levels of monitoring and a feeling among professionals that they lacked the necessary knowledge, skills and ‘role legitimacy’.

‘The primary care team has great strengths in identifying, assessing and preventing health harms,’ said the study’s lead author, Dr Steve Brinksman.

Dr Steve Brinksman: potential for reducing alcohol-related harm within existing resources of the surgery

‘By supporting nurse mentors in leading on the implementation of IBA there is potential for reducing alcohol-related harm within the existing resources of the surgery. This could support primary care in the practical implementation of an evidence based cost effective intervention which has experienced patchy uptake.’

‘Alcohol brief interventions are a key component in helping to identify people at risk of alcohol harm and in giving them the best advice to reduce that risk,’ added Alcohol Research UK’s director of research and policy development, Dr James Nicholls. ‘But, despite the benefits, such interventions are not always implemented effectively. This research shows that with improved leadership, knowledge and training, alcohol brief interventions can bring about important benefits in primary care settings to those drinkers who are experiencing alcohol-related harm.’

Supporting nurse mentors to reduce the barriers to implementing alcohol interventions and brief advice in primary care available at alcoholresearchuk.org

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