Nine out of ten A&E departments are failing to identify young people with alcohol problems, preventing them from getting the help they need, a new study has found.

Young people are not routinely asked about their alcohol consumption in the majority of hospitals, according to a survey of 147 A&E departments nationwide.

This contravenes NICE guidelines – the National Institute for Clinical Excellence – which suggest that screening followed by feedback from the results is the most effective way to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Patients over 65 are also not routinely asked about their drinking habits, the study carried out by researchers from the University of Surrey found.

Young people are drinking less than previous generations, the survey found, but this age group (aged between 11 and 17 years) still accounts for the largest number of drink-related admissions to Accident and Emergency.

Just 11.6 per cent of A&E departments – less than one in six – routinely asked this age group about drinking habits. This was, however, an increase from 2011, when researchers found that 8.9 per cent of A&E departments routinely asked 11-17-year-olds about alcohol consumption.

Screening and routine questioning of adults aged between 18 and 65, meanwhile, had increased since a similar survey in 2011 (from 47.7 per cent to 63.6 per cent), researchers wrote in an article published in the Emergency Medical Journal this week.

Despite the low figures of children not being asked, the report’s authors concluded that the results were “encouraging”, and highlighted “general adherence to national guidelines and improvements in the provision of screening and brief intervention practices since 2011”.

Lead author of the report Dr Robert Patton from the University of Surrey said: “Ending up in A&E is often a wakeup call for people and forces them to assess their alcohol consumption.

“However, this is not always the case and sometimes involvement from a health care professional is what is required to support people in reducing their alcohol consumption.

“The fact that young people and those over 65 are not routinely asked about their alcohol intake results in their problem being swept under the carpet which is dangerous. Alcohol can destroy lives and puts undue pressure on the NHS, so it is important that the support is in place to help those affected.”

An NHS England spokesperson said: “We are pleased to see that alcohol screening and intervention are being undertaken more frequently in A&E departments in England.

“However, further improvements are required for younger patients who visit A&E, to ensure they receive the services they need.”

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