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Effect of financial incentives on delivery of alcohol screening and brief intervention in primary care

Alcohol screening and brief intervention (ASBI) is effective but often under-provided in primary care. Financial incentives may help address this. We assessed the impact of a local pay-for-performance programme on delivery of ASBI in UK primary care in a longitudinal study using data from 30 general practices in North-West London from 2008 to 2011 with logistic regression to examine disparities in ASBI delivery. The study was published in the Journal of Public Health.


Of 211 834 registered patients, 45 040 were targeted by the incentive (cardiovascular conditions or high risk; mental health conditions), of whom 65.7% were screened (up from a baseline of 4.8%, P < 0.001), compared with 14.7% of non-targeted patients (P < 0.001). Screening rates were lower after adjustment in younger patients, White patients, less deprived areas and in patients with mental health conditions (P < 0.05). Of those screened, 11.5% were positive and 88.6% received BI. Men and White patients were significantly more likely to screen positive. Women and younger patients were less likely to receive BI. 30.1% of patients re-screened were now negative. However, patients with mental health conditions were less likely to re-screen negative than those with cardiovascular conditions.
We concluded that financial incentives appear to be effective in increasing delivery of ASBI in primary care and may reduce hazardous and harmful drinking in some patients. The findings support universal rather than targeted screening.

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