The NHS is wasting £3 billion a year by trying to implement a flawed government strategy on heavy drinking, Alcohol Concern claimed at a conference last week.
The charity used the event to publish research supporting its goal of earlier treatment of alcohol problems. It revealed 65 per cent of GPs help one to six patients with serious drink problems at any given time.
On average they each have 360 excessive drinkers on their patient list.
Richard Phillips, director of policy and services at Alcohol Concern, said: "Earlier treatment would make a real contribution to tackling waiting lists and times, coronary heart disease, cancer, mental health, strokes and falls by older people as well as dealing with alcohol misuse itself.
"It would help the NHS deal with alcohol misuse at its root, rather than constantly struggling to cope with its symptoms at huge financial and human cost."
Alcohol Concern also unveiled details of a new guide at the conference, which was attended by health professionals, on improving the early detection and treatment of alcoholism.
It calls on primary care trusts to adopt strategies which would include awareness campaigns among GPs and nurses.