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Alcohol screening demand

The Department of Health appears to be determined to force screening for signs of alcohol misuse into future versions of the QOF.

Pulse has learned that ministers submitted proposals to the expert review for the last round of revisions calling for everyone over the age of 16 to receive alcohol screening.

While the department refused to confirm it would again be seeking screening in this year's review, its intentions are clear in new guidance – Models of care for alcohol misusers – which calls for all PCTs to ensure arrangements for screening, brief interventions and referral are in place.

The expert group for the last review warned the department's proposals might be considered 'onerous' by GPs – but recommended an indicator on screening of all new patients and those at high risk.

The group also suggested an indicator for the proportion of patients with a problem offered 'brief interventions'.

Dr Clare Gerada, member of the substance misuse unit of the RCGP, which also submitted proposals for alcohol screening, criticised the failure to agree alcohol indicators in the final negotiations. Dr Gerada, a GP in Lambeth, south London, said: 'I was very angry about alcohol not being in the QOF. We're fiddling while Rome burns.'

Dr Eileen Kaner, a senior lecturer in public health at the University of Newcastle who reviewed the expert report as part of the assessment process, said: 'We know one in five people who come in to primary care are hazardous drinkers. The vast majority go undetected.'

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