Midland Emergency Departments determined to reduce harm from alcohol consumption

6 December 2013

Excessive alcohol consumption causes immense harm to adults and children resulting in increasing presentations at emergency departments.

But current data available from emergency department grossly underestimates the extent of the problem as most EDs only record the primary presenting problem.

This will only identify alcohol as a factor if the presentation is alcohol intoxication or withdrawal.

If, however, a person attends an ED with injury or harm caused by alcohol consumed by themselves or others, the presenting problem will identify the harm but not the role alcohol has played.

Midland Regional Emergency Department Clinical Network liaison Dr Matthew Valentine of Whakatane Hospital’s emergency department says there are also many alcohol related harm events that do not attend ED.

“So the full extent of the problem is massively underestimated,” he said.

The Midland Clinical Network has clinical representatives from five district health boards in the central North Island – Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Tairawhiti, Taranaki and Waikato.

The network is working to improve data collection to better identify alcohol related harm among presentations to ED.

Projects are underway at the emergency departments in each DHB to try to identify those patients that present with an alcohol related injury or harm.

“This may be harm - injury or neglect - to a child or adult from an intoxicated person,” said Dr Valentine.

“In parallel, with better data collection the clinical network is supporting other means of reducing the alcohol problem by lobbying for a lower drink drive limit and more control on access to alcohol.

“As emergency departments are seeing on a daily basis the extensive harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption and lives lost or damaged – we believe we have a moral and clinical obligation to better identify the problem and use this data to lobby for preventative measures,” said Dr Valentine.