A pilot study was undertaken in the Accident & Emergency (A & E) departments of two central London teaching hospitals to determine if patients who were abusing alcohol and had not received any prior medical treatment or counselling for their drinking problem were amenable to offers of help. During the 24-month study period 104 patients were identified as having a previously untreated alcohol problem, and of these 46% attended an appointment to discuss their drinking habits. The group identified was much smaller than would be expected from the number attending the A & E departments during the study period and the reasons for this are discussed. However, the important observation from the study is that almost half the patients identified as having an alcohol problem returned to the department the following day to seek advice. This suggests that A & E departments are an appropriate place to offer patients initial help about their drinking habits.