Hospital to test patients for alcohol

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The Independent Online
People who have injured themselves tripping over the vacuum cleaner, stumbling downstairs, or simply falling over are to be invited to undergo random alcohol tests when they arrive at the casualty unit of a Scottish hospital.

Around 1,000 men and women who turn up at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, at the heart of the whisky distilling region in the Highlands, will be tested as part of a two-month research project.

Doctors says that Scotland has one of the highest rates of home injuries, and one of the aims of the research is to look at whether alcohol is implicated in home accidents, which cost the UK an estimated pounds 820m a year.

"We're not interested in the drunks - we know those," said Raigmore's accident and emergency consultant, Noelle Murphy. "But there are people who may have had a drink that could be involved in their injury."

The research, which is funded by the Scottish Office, also aims to gather valuable information on drinking patterns, which have hitherto gone unrecorded.

Dr Murphy said: "We want to get an accurate picture of the prevalence of alcohol and its implication in the presentation of patients. The death rate from home injuries in Scotland is significantly higher than that of any other area of the UK. This work may help us to design health education programmes that tackle the problem."

The work, which Dr Murphy is co-ordinating with psychologist Dr Dave Peck of the Highland Communities NHS Trust, will start within the next few weeks.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents yesterday welcomed the research. "Taking into account that nearly 60 per cent of deaths in the home are caused through falls, and around 35 per cent of non-fatal accidents involve falls, there is the possibility that alcohol may be involved, so we will be very interested in the results of this research,"said a spokesman.

The ROSPA says that 3 million people a year in the UK seek medical attention after an accident in the home and that around 4,000 people die as the result of such accidents.