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Alcohol Care Team reduces stigma of tackling drink issues

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A new team has been launched at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust this Alcohol Awareness Week to help patients manage their alcohol consumption.

The Alcohol Care Team is made up of two specialist nurses who can support patients with their drinking, with services ranging from an informal chat to help with accessing community support.

Some of the team's key aims include reducing the stigma of people talking about their alcohol habits, guiding patients through community care, and ultimately reducing repeat admissions to hospital as a result of alcohol-related complications.

Victoria Reeves is one of the specialist nurses in the team. She said: "A really important part of our job is making sure people feel comfortable and able to talk about their alcohol consumption.

"There's still a stigma about drinking in this country, especially around discussing our own habits, but illnesses such as liver disease are on the rise and over-consumption of alcohol is one of the main contributors.

"It's very easy to over-consume alcohol without realising it - both men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week, but a single bottle of wine is 10 units and a pint of regular beer or lager is two units. These soon all add up when they're left unchecked."

In 2014, the Lancet Commission on alcohol-related liver diseases estimated that health problems caused by alcohol are costing the NHS £3.5 billion a year.

Denise O'Donnell, Lead Research Nurse for Gastro and Hepatology at the Trust, said: "The Alcohol Care Team is a big step forward for our Trust. It started with monthly meetings about alcohol consumption and how we were seeing more and more people presenting with issues related to their drinking.

"We realised we needed a dedicated focus to best help our patients, and so the team was born. Staff can refer patients directly to the team, and, with the help of our Here for Health colleagues, they'll help people address their drinking in a supportive and welcoming way.

"This service is for everyone - we're not singling out individuals. Managing your alcohol intake is a great way to improve both physical and mental health, and we want to help people make healthier choices."

People can also seek advice from their GP or self-refer to services such as Turning Point if they feel they need help and support reducing their alcohol intake.

Pictured, from left to right: Emma Hagues (Here for Health team), Victoria Reeves (Alcohol Liaison Nurse), Denise O’Donnell (Lead Research Nurse for Gastro and Hepatology), Michelle Leyton (Alcohol Liaison Nurse), and Jeremy Cobbold (Consultant Hepatologist).