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Umesh Modi is a chartered accountant, and Pamini Jatheeskumar is a chartered certified accountant at Silver Levene...
  Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead...
Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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alcohol-misuseJanuary 14 2015

Community pharmacy can play a role in helping tackle the problems of alcohol misuse, MPs have been told. However, there are a number of barriers which can reduce the effectiveness, or which mean pharmacy intervention measures as effective as hoped.

The points were aired at a session of the All Party Pharmacy Group in December. MPs heard from pharmacists involved in raising awareness of the support measures available for people who misuse alcohol, as well as from public health experts. The report of the meeting has now been published on the APPG website.

In the North West, six authorities have commissioned pharmacy services relating to alcohol advice. Steve Morton, Public Health England (North West) advisor for alcohol said that pharmacies are in a good position to provide alcohol misuse support services, but he also identified some problems, including that not all pharmacies have a suitable counselling space.

In addition, he said that people do not want to talk about alcohol misuse and are not responsive to suggestions their drinking habits may be harmful. For more effective interventions, pharmacists and pharmacy staff would need better training on the matter.

Graham Jones runs a pharmacy in Lambourn, Berkshire. He pointed out that some public health interventions, for example around smoking cessation, are relatively straightforward. However, interventions concerning health risks related to alcohol misuse or obesity can be more intimidation.

Pharmacists may be concerned that patients may become aggressive if they raise the matter, he said, but there are ways in which the matter can be raised tactfully.

Dr Lisa McNally, Consultant in Public Health and commissioner of the service in Berkshire, said that there is good evidence that the ‘Identification and Brief Advice’ (IBA) intervention can be successful and cost-effective, but that uptake can be low: only 21% to 43% of people being offered a chat about their alcohol consumption agree to it.

The interactive tools that have been used in the pharmacy scheme in Berkshire showed that:

•    86% of people who responded were more aware of the amount they were drinking
•    63% said they reduced the amount they were drinking
•    58% switched to lower strength alcohol
•    53% picked up on the idea of drinking on fewer days each week.

Other issues that were picked up in the wider debate at the APPG meeting included:

•    more training is needed on how to raise the topic and over the taboo of discussing alcohol misuse
•    if a pharmacy scheme is to be expanded, there is a need to have a standardised service, potentially at a national level
•    funding would need to be guaranteed for schemes to continue
•    more needs to be done to increase the level of advice and support before alcohol misuse becomes a serious problem requiring more intense clinical care.

Link:

APPG report    

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