Doctors and nurses working in GP practices, accident and emergency units and ante­natal clinics are being asked to talk to patients about reducing the amount of alcohol they consume in a bid to reduce the risks to their health.

A total of 26,499 “alcohol brief interventions” were made in 2008-09. Some 7603 took place in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, 3826 in NHS Lothian and 3586 in NHS Tayside.

It is the first time that the number of conversations has been recorded centrally and officials said that boards were still working on ways to deliver the new target. Each board will be expected to reach its designated target by 2010-11.

Ellen Hudson, associate director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said that alcohol interventions were an “important tool” in tackling the country’s relationship with alcohol.

The new figures were published as the government’s Scottish Health Survey for 2008 showed that many Scots are still drinking more than the recommended weekly limits. Almost one-third (30%) of men usually drink more than 21 units per week while one-fifth of women have more than 14 units over seven days.

Research published on Monday showed that introducing a minimum price of alcohol of 40p per unit, coupled with a ban on promotions, would result in 70 fewer alcohol-related deaths in the first year and savings of £950m over 10 years through reduced health spending and crime plus 30,000 fewer working days lost every year.