Archive | August, 2013

EBI: lost in the shadow of IBA?

9 Aug

Over recent years there has been a strong policy focus on IBA as a simple brief intervention: front-line roles giving simple feedback or ‘brief advice’ to risky drinkers. Big questions remain though over whether IBA is happening on the ground, or when it does, is it being done so effectively.

Another big issue though is whether Extended Brief Interventions (EBI) have been left in the shadow of simple IBA? However, since it seems most at risk drinkers will respond as well to IBA as EBI, why bother? A question perhaps strengthened by the SIPS trial which appeared to suggest even 5 minutes of brief advice is no superior to feedback and a leaflet.

v2However not everyone is content to take SIPS findings as word. Practically speaking , there are drinkers who need more than brief advice, but less than full ‘treatment’ offered by specialist services (which they are also less likely to engage with). Where someone either does not change following IBA, wants more help, is still unsure but does not need full structured treatment, EBI fills this potentially rather large gap of often ‘higher risk’ drinkers.

Another debate is of course whether EBI is actually a form of brief treatment rather than brief intervention. Semantics though are less important than identifying gaps in what’s currently being offered to all types of alcohol misusers. There are lots drinkers out there, maybe millions, who could arguably benefit from EBI or ‘brief treatment’ approaches, but very few will be offered or seek it.

How to increase access to EBI?

Of course EBI comes at a greater cost than IBA. It is part of the simple appeal of IBA that practically any front line role can do it with a quick bit of training or even e-learning. EBI however is an advanced skill based on Motivational Interviewing (MI) techniques, which are trickier than they sound. Most existing EBI services are therefore offered by alcohol roles working in community settings. However there are not many of these commissioned, although the case is there in the NICE alcohol guidance. (see 3.1 of the costing report in particular).

In some cases though other roles are stepping in, such as health trainers, ‘coaches’ or other independent practitioners working through GP practices. Certainly Primary Care settings seem the most logical arena for taking EBI to those that might benefit from it.

Avoiding ALCOHOL in the service name?

One further key consideration about EBI or ‘brief treatment’ approaches is that drinkers may often be wary of engaging in any form of ‘treatment’ or intervention. Many people view alcohol misuse as only applying to dependency, often at the more severe end, and so are unfamiliar with the concept of ‘risky’ or harmful use.

As a result, many EBI or other alcohol services have been wise to market themselves as services that are about helping people make healthier choices. This clearly fits well with the psychosocial nature of addressing alcohol misuse, but at the same time people need to understand what the service is really about.

One final plus

One further benefit of having EBI roles available is the impact on IBA delivery. EBI roles can play a crucial leadership role in ensuring routine identification is taking place by primary care roles, as well as being there as a referral resource for those otherwise left with not more than a leaflet to help them cut down.

In conclusion, the case and method for improving EBI acces is less straightforward than for IBA. Yet there is still a clear need and cost benefit to increasing access to interventions offering more than brief advice and less than structured treatment. More real world learning is needed on the best ways to achieve this.

Further reading

If you have any EBI evaluations or local case studies please let us know!

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