Background: In the UK, GPs and practice nurses selectively provide brief alcohol interventions to risk drinkers. GPs' provision of a brief alcohol intervention can be predicted by patient characteristics, practitioner characteristics and structural factors such as the features of the practice and how it is organized. However, much less is known about possible modifiers of nurse practice.
Objective: Our aim was to investigate if patient characteristics, nurse characteristics and practice factors influence provision of a brief alcohol intervention by practice nurses in primary health care.
Methods: One hundred and twenty-eight practice nurses who had implemented a brief alcohol intervention programme in a previous trial based in the North of England were requested to screen adults presenting to their surgery and follow a structured protocol to give a brief intervention (5 min of advice plus an information booklet) to all 'risk' drinkers. Anonymized carbon copies of 5541 completed Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) screening questionnaires were collected after a 3-month implementation period and analysed by logistic regression analysis.
Results: Although AUDIT identified 1500 'risk' drinkers, only 926 (62%) received a brief intervention. Logistic regression modelling showed that patients' risk status as measured by AUDIT score was the most influential predictor of a brief intervention by practice nurses. However, risk drinkers who were most likely to receive a brief intervention were male. Patients' age or social class did not independently predict a brief intervention. The multilevel model was unable to identify any independent nurse characteristics that could predict a brief intervention, but indicated significant variation between nurses in their tendency to offer the intervention to patients. No structural factors were found to be positively associated with selective provision.
Conclusions: Patient and nurse factors contributed to the selective provision of a brief intervention in primary care. If patients are to experience the beneficial effects of a brief alcohol intervention, then there is a need to improve the accuracy of delivery.