Thousands of people with drinking problems could be missing out on crucial help, a national health body has warned, as it urged GPs to monitor at-risk patients more carefully.
Around 600,000 adults have severe alcohol dependency in England and need specialist treatment, figures show.
However, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said that a “large number of people who are dependent on alcohol are not receiving treatment”.
A 2018 study on the GP records of 1.8 million adults across the UK found that half had no information on alcohol consumption data.
Less than one in 10 had a screening test score.
It has called on health bodies to ensure people’s drinking habits are correctly recorded to help improve people who need support are offered it.
As well as health and social care services, the body also urged criminal justice and community and voluntary services to ensure they have systems in place to use validated alcohol questionnaires when asking people about their alcohol use.
Logging information properly will also mean that patients are not repeatedly asked about their drinking habits, Nice suggested.
“Many of us are asked about our alcohol use when we interact with health services, but if an appropriate questionnaire is not used, people with alcohol problems could be slipping through the net and may not be receiving the support they need,” said Dr Paul Chrisp, director of the Centre for Guidelines at Nice.
“We know a large number of people who are dependent on alcohol are not receiving treatment and this could be for a variety of reasons, but as part of a health and care system that continually learns from data, we do know that using a validated questionnaire provides commissioners with the information they need to organise appropriate services.”
A draft document has been put out for consultation by Nice which describes priority areas for improvement, including on the diagnosis and management of alcohol-use disorders.