To identify barriers to healthcare providers carrying out competent brief interventions to help heavy drinkers to reduce their drinking.
A questionnaire on attitudes, skills, knowledge, training needs and suggestions for implementation of brief interventions was mailed to all nurses and physicians working in primary health care in two Finnish cities. One hundred and sixty-seven primary health care nurses and 84 physicians returned the questionnaire.
The response rates among nurses varied between 66 and 99% and among physicians between 76 and 95% depending on the issue. Factors related to knowledge seem to be a barrier to the adoption of brief intervention: only 18% of respondents reported having enough knowledge to provide competent brief intervention and half of the respondents reported wanting more training. Contrary to expectations, physicians consider themselves to be better equipped to do brief intervention than nurses. Practical training in using alcohol questionnaires and on the content of brief intervention would help promote it. Such training was seen as important by 90% of the respondents. Giving more information on the evidence in favour of brief intervention would also be useful.