Tackling children's alcohol related emergency visits

A major new research programme to tackle children's alcohol related emergency department (ED) attendances has been awarded by the Department of Health National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to a consortium of research centres led by the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), King's College London.

The average amount of alcohol consumed by 11-15 year olds in England doubled in the last 13 years to 2007, with considerable health harm. Many adolescents present to hospital emergency departments (EDs) having experienced alcohol related harm. However, effective public health strategies to provide early interventions to reduce alcohol-related harm in adolescents in the UK are hampered by a lack of research evidence.

Developing and evaluating interventions for adolescent alcohol use disorders presenting through emergency departments

This research programme will provide estimates of the level of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in adolescents attending ED. It will also develop, implement and evaluate screening and alcohol interventions for adolescents in the ED setting.

Screening and intervention for alcohol problems in adolescents in ED has been evaluated mostly in North America but the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these approaches in the UK NHS is unknown. Existing research does not take sufficient account of the impact of alcohol consumption at different developmental stages in adolescence, and there is insufficient understanding of the usefulness of screening approaches in the under 18 years age group.

This research programme is funded by the Department of Health National Institute for Health Research. £2 million has been awarded to a consortium of research centres, led by the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, including Universities of Newcastle, Kent, Swansea, Glamorgan, Imperial College, and St Mary's Hospital, the South London and the Maudsley NHS foundation trust, Humber NHS teaching trust, and Newcastle NHS Mental Health Trust. The programme will be conducted over the next 5 years and provide estimates of prevalence, optimum screening tools, and age appropriate alcohol intervention guidelines.