Problems encountered with opportunistic screening for alcohol-related problems in patients attending an accident and emergency department

Addiction. 1998 Apr;93(4):589-94. doi: 10.1046/j.1360-0443.1998.93458914.x.


Aims: To assess the value of opportunistic screening in Accident and Emergency (A&E) for patients with alcohol-related problems and provision of an intervention.

Design: Screening of A&E attendees for the purpose of recruitment to a randomized trial of a counselling intervention.

Setting: A General Hospital A&E department.

Participants: All 17,000 adult A&E attendees, during a 6-month period and all nursing staff working within the department.

Measurements: Patients' self-reported alcohol consumption, responses to the CAGE questionnaire (four questions designed to identify problem drinking) and proportions offered, and taking up offer of help.

Findings: Only 4663 (28%) adult attendees at A&E were actually screened and of these 2% declined and 25% were judged unable to answer. Of the rest, 86% drank alcohol, with 22% drinking in excess of current guidelines or with two or more positive answers to CAGE. Only 41% (264) of those drinking to excess were offered help and 88% of these declined it. This left 13 patients to be included in the trial.

Conclusion: There is a significant need for an effective intervention in this area but considerable barriers exist to testing the efficacy of potential screening strategies and interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcoholism / diagnosis*
  • Alcoholism / therapy
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Selection
  • Surveys and Questionnaires