ACT News

Licensed venues group concerned over Calvary drug and alcohol recording trial

The association representing Canberra's licensed venues has concerns about a pilot study designed to record the drug and alcohol intake of every patient in Calvary Hospital's emergency department.

The $3.6 million Australia-first study is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council. Set to roll out across eight hospitals from July, it will also document the venues intoxicated people had attended.

Australian Hotels Association ACT general manager Jo Broad said she was yet to be briefed on the study on Tuesday. 

Ms Broad said the study "may not reflect people's drinking patterns [in terms of] drinking at home or at private parties and whether drugs have been consumed with alcohol."

She also remained concerned that patients might not talk openly about using illicit drugs for fear of incrimination.

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Calvary Hospital emergency consultant David Caldicott said almost all patients were honest with their doctors.

"They might not want to talk to police about it but if they are worried that they are sick and they might be sick due to a drug ingestion, they are the first to say it," Dr Calidicott said.

"We have people who actually bring in their drugs because they know we are bound by confidentiality and we can't tell anyone."

ACT Policing and the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education welcomed the trial. 

In January, FARE reported 3.8 million Australians average more than four standard drinks of alcohol a day, twice the recommended health guidelines.

FARE Chief Executive, Michael Thorn, expects this study will shine a light on the under-reported harm caused by packaged liquor.

"The focus is too often on licensed outlets – pubs and clubs – and while they contribute to high profile incidents of alcohol related violence such as one punch killings, we also know that many of those happen in the home where there has been heavy drinking," he said.

"I'd be reasonably confident that what this survey will reveal is that there are certain packaged liquor outlets that are contributing more harm than others and that will allow interventions around tightening up trading hours, their responsibilities when it comes to the service of alcohol and the number of outlets in our community."

Mr Thorn also hoped it would show whether one talk with a doctor could change a person's drinking behaviour.

Research undertaken in Britain and supported by Alcohol Research UK, found that brief interventions between a doctor and patient successfully persuaded people to cut back drinking.

"Often people don't fully appreciate what impact their drinking is having on their health and those around them until they have that discussion," Mr Thorn said.

He said further work needed to be done in calculating the true cost of alcohol on society, including on domestic violence services and the workforce.

ACT Policing said it "would welcome additional data and information that supports a continued whole-of-government approach to drug and alcohol-fuelled violence in the ACT community".

Health Minister Simon Corbell said he was pleased to see Calvary had been chosen as a participant in the study.

"The pilot will help inform future interventions and health policy to manage alcohol and drug-related harm," Mr Corbell said. 

"A decision on whether similar data collection is undertaken in the Canberra Hospital emergency department will be considered following the results of the national pilot study."

Asked if data from the study could be used by the government to target venues, Mr Corbell said having additional information about the locations where incidents occur, could be useful to identify and address alcohol-related harm including violence. 

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