Nearly 1.6 million patients haven’t been asked by their GP if they consume too much alcohol, following the end of a government-run scheme which paid practices to screen new patients for excessive drinking.
Researchers at Newcastle University found 92 out of every 1,000 patients were quizzed in 2006, two years before the financial incentive was introduced in England.
But the rate plummeted by three patients a month when the scheme ended, according to the analysis of health records from 600 surgeries.
The researchers calculated this would mean 600,000 fewer adults were screened for high-risk drinking in England by the end of 2016.
The team estimated the figure would have been around the 1.56 million mark in September, but told MailOnline it could be a lot worse.
Lead author Dr Amy O’Donnell said the roll-out of the incentive prompted a gradual rise in screening rates among GPs, who also began to provide more advice to high-risk patients.
However, the data from four million newly registered patients showed rates of screening and advice-giving dropped almost immediately after it was scrapped.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, said addiction to alcohol is something that GPs take very seriously.
She added that family doctors will still be discussing alcohol consumption with their patients where appropriate, and providing advice to those who have a problem.