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The Evidence of Effectiveness & Minimum Standards for the Provision of Alcohol Identification and Brief Advice in Community Health Settings

Around 9 million people in England regularly drink above the Government’s sensible drinking guidelines. Alcohol use is one of the three biggest lifestyle risk factors for disease and death after smoking and obesity and society is paying the price. Alcohol-related harm is now estimated to cost society £21 billion annually.

These 9 million drinkers are not, in the main, dependent on alcohol. Only a minority conform to the public image of the “alcoholic”. The majority are people with jobs, cars, families and positions of respect in the community; however their drinking is placing them at greater risk of alcohol related harm and is placing a huge burden on the community.

• Alcohol misuse costs the NHS around £3.5 billion a year
• 25% of all acute male hospital beds are occupied by someone with alcohol related harm
• 1 million incidents of alcohol related violence occur each year
• Alcohol related crime costs over £10 billion annually
• 11-17 million working days are lost each year due to alcohol-related sickness absence6
• About 1 million children live in a family affected by parental alcohol problems.

Alcohol misuse is a problem for all of us and a challenge to every health, social care, housing and community safety agency in the country. Anyone working in these agencies can expect to meet people at risk of alcohol related harm. This burden is also a responsibility as each of these agencies will see drinkers and have the opportunity to tackle alcohol related harm. However, the majority of these at risk drinkers can benefit from simple, brief advice delivered by professionals without specialism in alcohol misuse management.