The aim of this study was to look at how nurses and doctors record alcohol histories on the patients under their care and the frequency and appropriateness of the way they use an alcohol withdrawal scale in the acute hospital setting. To achieve these aims patient records were audited and compared at two points in time, in 1992 and 1994. Results of the study showed that nurses and doctors took alcohol histories from patients on approximately three-quarters of occasions and that this level of recording has not changed over time. The adequacy of alcohol-history taking has, however, increased for both nurses and doctors since 1992. At that time, 71% of the alcohol histories taken by nurses and 74% of alcohol histories taken by doctors were judged to be adequate. By 1994, however, 79% of alcohol histories taken by nurses and 77% of histories by doctors were rated as adequate. The increase in the adequacy of history taking by nurses was significant (x2= 5. 05; d.f. = 1; P<0.05) and the increase by doctors was not significant (x2= 1.03; d.f. = 1; P > 0.05). These results are seen as being positively associated with the major governmental nursing initiative in New South Wales, Australia, the New South Wales Strategic Plan for the Nursing Management of Alcohol and Other Drugs.