Aims: To assess current practices and attitudes of general practitioners towards prevention and intervention with problem drinkers.
Methods: GPs randomly selected in the Central and Southern Health Regions answered a 134 item questionnaire on their involvement with patients with alcohol related problems.
Results: In all, 136 general practitioners responded representing 85% of those approached. When asked how often they provided interventions with alcohol problems, 86% reported managing under 13 patients per year, indicating an intervention rate of less than 1% of the mean practice size. In terms of disease prevention, 86% rated 'drinking moderately' as important but this endorsement ranked fifth behind other lifestyle behaviours such as 'not smoking' at 99%. When asked about their perceived role, they indicated higher role legitimacy but lower work satisfaction with alcohol problems. In terms of training, three-quarters stated they had received less than eleven hours of postgraduate alcohol education. They also rated their current effectiveness with alcohol problems as substantially less than potential effectiveness. They indicated the main obstacles to be: government funding policies, lack of adequate training and a need for improved resources and support services.
Conclusions: With research having established the effectiveness of interventions for harmful alcohol consumption, attention has shifted to ways of engaging general practitioners in providing interventions. This study highlighted how changes to government health policy and improved competency and skilled based training could lead to a greater acceptance by general practitioners of the role they could play in reducing alcohol related problems.