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Reducing alcohol-related admissions

The Alcohol Care Team (ACT) based at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and jointly led by staff from South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, has reduced alcohol-related admissions and the average length of stay for patients with alcohol problems since it launched in November last year.

The multidisciplinary team delivers holistic care to people with alcohol problems, a diverse and often marginalised patient group with complex physical and mental health needs.

A national priority

ACT care teamNew figures published as part of NHS Digital’s Statistics on Alcohol report showed there were 338,000 admissions to hospital in 2017/18 where the main cause was due to drinking alcohol - a 15% increase over ten years. As identified in the recently published NHS Long Term Plan, alcohol-related hospital admissions is a growing burden on the NHS and the formation of ACTs should be a national priority.

[Image: Alcohol Care Team, from left to right Geraldine O’Brien, Nicola Kalk, Thomas Jones, Pitchy-Ann Vicente, Rosemary Griffith, Finola Curtin, John Johnson, Naina Shah, Joshua Stapleton, Rina Patel]

Early interventions, suitable care

In 2016/17 King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust saw 55,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions. To meet this challenge, the new team increased their presence in the emergency department (ED) and implemented an alcohol screening and brief intervention teaching programme for frontline staff. This has allowed staff to intervene earlier so that patients are not admitted to hospital inappropriately when suitable community treatment options are available.

Between November-January the ACT diverted 65% of all alcohol-related ED referrals to community services, representing a potential saving of 598.5 bed days (based on NHS Digital Hospital Admitted Patient Care Activity 2016/17 data where average length of stay is 6.3 days). The team has also seen a decrease in the average length of stay for alcohol-attributable hospital presentations from 4.9 days to 4.2 - 33% lower than the national average.

For those patients who are admitted to hospital, often for another acute medical need, the team ensures their withdrawal symptoms are appropriately managed, reviewing them daily and providing psychosocial interventions. Strong links with community drug and alcohol services and outpatient detox care have been established to improve continuity of care for patients being discharged from hospital.

Thomas Jones, ACT Service Lead, said:

These initial results are very promising and indicate that the ACT is vital for reducing the burden alcohol-related presentations have on the NHS and of course improving patient outcomes.
It’s also been great to see such overwhelmingly positive feedback from patients and colleagues praising ACT staff for being caring, efficient and respectful individuals who are helping to improve quality of care.

Staff on the Denmark Hill site can refer patients to ACT via the electronic patient register (EPR) system and can obtain current contact details on the KWIKI internal web-based information resource.

The King’s Health Partners Addictions Clinical Academic Group are one of the largest providers of NHS addictions services in the UK.