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Two-thirds of alcohol defence cases filed by GPs

Practices are struggling to treat patients exhibiting alcohol problems, according to analysis from medical defence experts which shows two-thirds of cases are filed by GPs.

The Medical Defence Union audit found of the 189 cases they opened involving patients with alcohol problems between January 2009 and June 2011, 64% were from GPs.

The MDU said they receive an average of six requests per month for help concerning an aspect of treating alcoholic patients, ranging from aid at coroners' inquiries to dealing with complaints and consent and capacity issues.

Dr Yvonne McCombie, medico-legal adviser at MDU, said: ‘The number of health problems associated with heavy drinking and the effects of alcohol on a patient's behaviour, mean that drunken and alcoholic patients present particular challenges for doctors.'

‘It is often difficult to persuade patients to even accept they have a problem, still less ensure their cooperation with treatment. The large proportion of cases in this study relating to coroners' reports and inquests highlights just how difficult it is to successfully treat alcoholism.'

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