A new study shows that 5.9% of people attending Irish hospital Emergency Departments had alcohol recorded in their notes. Led by staff in Galway University Hospital Emergency Department, the HSE Public Health Department in Galway and NUI Galway, this is the first study of its kind just published in BMJ Open.
The study included every Emergency Department in Ireland, a total of 29. Staff examined the notes of every person over the same four six-hour periods to identify alcohol related presentations. The busiest time was Saturday night and Sunday morning when 29% of people coming to Irish Emergency Departments were alcohol related.
Dr Brian McNicholl, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at University Hospital Galway, one of the authors of the study who organised the collection of information from all the Emergency Departments with the help of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, said: “We know alcohol is a problem in Emergency Departments at certain times but we need to know more about this to work out what needs to be done.
"We don’t have a nationally agreed way to collect this information so we developed a method with the help of colleagues all over the country. We confirmed that the people coming to us with alcohol related presentations are more likely to be male, arrive by ambulance, leave without being seen by a doctor, and to leave against medical advice.”
One of the authors of the study, Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, Director of Public Health in the HSE West and Senior Lecturer in Social and Preventive Medicine at NUI Galway, said: “The burden of alcohol on Emergency Departments and on emergency services is substantial and expensive.
"We need to do more to prevent alcohol related harm, and to have better services for people who have alcohol problems so that people don’t end up in Emergency Departments and ambulances. In our study the alcohol related people were four times more likely to come by ambulance.”
This research will provide evidence to help improve ways of collecting information on alcohol use and better ways to provide hospital and other services for people with problem alcohol use. Further studies are underway to find out more about the issue.