NICE has approved plans to develop a QOF indicator for brief interventions in patients with alcohol problems, but only in those that have hypertension.
The indicator stems from NICE public health guidance, which recommends identification and brief interventions to reduce harmful alcohol use.
But GPs involved in developing the indicators had previously advised against screening all patients for alcohol use, because of a lack of evidence of benefit of population screening and difficulties in delivering the intervention to all patients.
NICE’s QOF advisory committee has now agreed to target patients with hypertension specifically, because of the potential for reducing harm in these patients and because the hypertension population represents a relatively small and well-established register of patients.
Other potential target populations, such as patients with mental health problems, injuries and gastrointestinal conditions were considered much more difficult to track.
Much of the evidence for adopting alcohol screening in QOF came from the SIPS trial, which showed that giving brief advice on reducing alcohol intake is as cost effective as more intensive counselling at helping patients to address problem drinking.
The approach will now be piloted by GP practices to see if it is practical to introduce into the QOF
The committee also gave the nod to piloting an indicator to check for target organ damage in patients around the time of diagnosis with hypertension.