Make sure people’s drinking habits are correctly recorded, NICE urges GPs

People asked about their drinking should have the information ‘added to a validated questionnaire’ to identify if they need help, according to a new draft quality standard issued by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

Information on people’s alcohol consumption should be ‘correctly and appropriately stored’

Thousands of people each year are potentially missing out on brief interventions or referrals to treatment services, the institute says. 

Of more than 600,000 dependent drinkers in 2018-19, less than 30 per cent were receiving treatment, according to the most recent OHID figures. Information on people’s alcohol consumption should be ‘correctly and appropriately stored’, the NICE guidance says, which would also help to avoid people being repeatedly asked about their drinking. Alongside GPs, NICE is urging secondary and social care services, criminal justice agencies and community and voluntary services to make sure that systems are in place for the use of validated questionnaires when asking people about their drinking. 

Director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, Dr Paul Chrisp
Director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, Dr Paul Chrisp

‘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 director of the Centre for Guidelines at NICE, Dr Paul Chrisp. ‘We know a large number of people who are dependent of 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.’

Meanwhile, a new report from Public Health Scotland (PHS) has found that the introduction of minimum unit pricing (MUP) in Scotland in 2018 has had minimal effect on the drinks industry. The report measured the industry’s economic performance across five metrics – number of firms, turnover, employment, output value and gross value added. The off-trade has been characterised by lower sales volumes, but at higher prices, the report states, with the industry already having ‘moved on’ from MUP by mid-2019 and the legislation ‘largely not a day-to-day concern’. The industry had argued that MUP would have a significant economic impact in the years prior to its implementation.  

director at Frontier Economics, Andrew Leicester
Director at Frontier Economics, Andrew Leicester

‘Our analysis of detailed quantitative data broken down by country and sub-sector of the alcoholic drinks industry does not find compelling evidence of observable impacts of MUP on industry performance in the years immediately following its introduction,’ said lead researcher and associate director at Frontier Economics, Andrew Leicester. ‘Case study interviews from across different parts of the industry largely validate this view, recognising that MUP clearly did affect the behaviour of producers and retailers to adapt rapidly to new limits on pricing, but not in ways that appear to have significantly affected overall industry performance in the medium-run.’ 

Alcohol use disorders update at

Minimum unit pricing: Impacts on the alcoholic drinks industry in Scotland at

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