Brief Advice

The SIPS Brief Advice tool “Brief advice about alcohol risk” was developed for the purpose of the SIPS programme. It was based on the “How much is too much? Simple Structured Advice intervention tool, developed as part of the UK version of the Drink-Less BI programme (McAvoy et al 1997) from a prototype used as part of a World Health Organisation collaborative study on alcohol screening and brief intervention (Centre for Drug & Alcohol Studies, 1993).


The brief advice tool was designed to provide practitioners in various settings (primary care, accident and emergency departments, and probation services) with a prompt on which to structure and deliver brief advice to hazardous and harmful drinkers.

How it was developed

The content of the brief advice about alcohol risk was closely related to the earlier “How much is too much?” tool. Modifications included:
1) Additional drink icons to indicate the alcohol content of typical drinks in terms of standard drinks (standard drink = one unit or 8g of pure alcohol).
2) It did not contain AUDIT questionnaire scores as AUDIT was not used as a screening tool in the SIPS trial.
3) The terms sensible drinking, hazardous drinking, and harmful drinking have been replaced to reflect the updated Department of Health terminology of low risk, increased risk and high risk respectively.
4) The graphic also reflected risk categories rather than alcohol disorders.
Otherwise the tool was identical to earlier versions.

How it was used in SIPS

Practitioners participating in the study in each of the settings (primary care, accident and emergency and probation) received a 1 hour training session on delivering the Brief Advice using the tool (see below), delivered by one of the SIPS Alcohol Health Workers (AHW). Participating staff were trained to deliver five minutes of advice according to the standard protocol, using the Brief advice tool as a prompt. The practitioner was trained to use the tool as a visual guide for patients/clients, and pointed to the risk table to emphasise how their alcohol consumption was related to their level of risk, and the common effects of drinking at these levels. At the end of the session the practitioner delivered the Patient Information Leaflet as described here. The practitioner also provided the patient/client with the Brief advice tool to take away and read at their leisure.

Watch the demo tape and powerpoint presentation

Click here to watch the demo tape

Download a quicktime version (82MB)
Click here for further information on the demo video
Ruth McGovern is the SIPS senior Alcohol Health Worker
Bibi Rogers is the actor playing "Jen"
Actor's script
Click here to learn more about the training and to watch the BA powerpoint presentation

This is a one hour training session delivered to participating staff (in primary health care, accident and emergency or probation) by an SIPS Alcohol Health Worker as part of the SIPS programme.


To provide practitioners with training necessary to effectively deliver brief advice to patients in the particular clinical setting in which they work. The role play element of the session provides practitioners with an opportunity to observe a brief advice session delivered by an experienced Alcohol Health Worker followed by the opportunity to practice delivery of brief advice in role play observed by the AHW.

How it has been developed

The training was developed by the SIPS team to be delivered by an Alcohol Health Worker. The Alcohol Health Workers in the SIPS team are experienced practitioners in the field of alcohol treatment. They contributed to the development of the training package and have been fully trained to deliver the training to practitioners. As there are 9 Alcohol Health Workers working in the SIPS team across multiple sites and settings we have developed a standard training package, based on a PowerPoint presentation with notes to standardise delivery. The training sessions are adapted for use in the different clinical settings and experimental conditions in which BA is being delivered. The session is designed to be interactive to engage the audience.

How it is used in SIPS

The session is presented to small groups of clinicians who are encouraged to interact with the trainer, ask questions and comment on the content. This is followed by an interactive role play session in which the AHW demonstrates the intervention, and then each practitioner has an opportunity to practice with a co-worker, observed by the trainer who provides feedback and encouragement. Training sessions are delivered to groups of 1-10 practitioners with 3-4 being the typical group size. However, some A&E departments require larger groups due to the higher number of participating staff, especially in larger hospitals with busy AEDs.

Click on the slide to start the presentation

Click here to download the powerpoint presentation (2.6Mb)