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GPs to screen pre-teens for alcohol abuse

All children from the age of 10 are to be routinely asked by GPs how much alcohol they drink.

New guidelines expected from the government’s health watchdog will recommend that family doctors screen youngsters for alcohol abuse on their first appointment or during routine visits. The guidelines aim to curb the health damage caused by binge drinking at a young age.

Last week The Sunday Times told the story of Gary Reinbach, 22, who died of cirrhosis of the liver later that day after drinking heavily from the age of 13.

Reinbach, from Dagenham, east London, did not qualify for a liver transplant because he was too ill to prove he could remain sober for months outside hospital.

His mother, Madeline Hanshaw, 44, has blamed widely available cheap alcohol for the loss of her son. She said: “It is too easy for young people to get alcohol. You can buy a bottle of whisky for about £7.”

The draft guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) are intended to detect children and adolescents who drink heavily before they become addicted.

Don Shenker, chief executive of Alcohol Concern and a member of the group drafting the guidelines, said: “If a child is coming for their first appointment, there is an opportunity for a nurse or doctor to ask them some basic questions about their drinking.

“The Nice guidelines will be very useful because there will be recommendations for GPs to use these screens with all children 10 years old and up.”

The guidelines follow calls by Sir Liam Donaldson, the chief medical officer, yesterday for all cans and bottles of alcohol to display health warnings.

Donaldson said there were strong grounds for making the labels compulsory if the drinks industry failed to introduce them voluntarily.

Donaldson added that he was heartened the government was still considering a minimum price per unit of alcohol of 50p, which would mean a bottle of wine could not be sold for less than about £4.50, a 700ml bottle of whisky would cost at least £14 and six cans of lager would have a minimum price of £6.

source: Sunday Times

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