Nurses address the alcohol taboo
Friday 11 November 2016
Nurses have introduced an initiative to warn patients of the risks of drinking too much alcohol in a bid to improve their health and reduce hospital admissions. In South London 40% of visits to the Emergency Departments (A&E) are alcohol related. This figure rises to 70% at weekends.
The nurses, from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Alcohol Care Team, asked 90% of patients staying on the Acute Admission Ward at St Thomas’ for three or more days about their drinking habits. The team help patients to recognise when they are drinking too much and support them to reduce their alcohol intake.
Roy Kemp, 62, a labourer from Mottingham in south east London, was diagnosed with cancer of the neck in January.
He says: "I've been drinking most of my life. You name it I drank it. I did stop when I first met my wife but I soon started again and when she became terminally ill my drinking got worse. I'd easily drink eight cans of lager and a bottle of wine a night, plus one or two in the pub on the way home from work.
"I noticed a lump on the back of my neck and my doctor said I should take a blood test. I didn't do anything and carried on drinking. When the lump started getting bigger and bigger and my voice was affected I went to Guy's. They did a biopsy and found cancer cells in my neck.
"I want to give up drinking for my kids and grandkids. If it wasn't for Shantelle Quashie from the Alcohol Care Team I'd still be drinking. She told me cancer and drinking go hand in hand."
Shantelle, lead nurse for the Alcohol Care Team at Guy's and St Thomas', says: "People often say I'm the first person to ask them about their drinking. For some it has been a taboo subject among family and friends.
"Our team give advice so patients begin to modify their drinking before treatment starts.
"People who drink over the recommended levels are at greater risk of various cancers and other conditions including heart disease, stomach ulcers, impotence, infertility and anaemia.
"They are also more likely to have depression, low energy and high blood pressure.
"I tell patients that simple changes like reducing the number of nights on which they drink alcohol can reduce their risk of developing illnesses such as breast cancer and generally improve their health and wellbeing."
Nationally, in 2014/15 there were more than 1 million hospital admissions due to an alcohol-related disease, injury or condition.
To find out about the Alcohol Care Team visit www.guysandstthomas.nhs.uk/alcoholcareteam.
Last updated: November 2016