Recovery Partnership Review of Alcohol Treatment Services

The Recovery Partnership review of the current state of alcohol treatment in England was funded by the Department of Health and undertaken by Alcohol Concern. The review examined how recent changes in health and social care have impacted on the service users journey, commissioning, training and the needs of specific groups.

“Blenheim welcomes the report as a significant contribution to understanding the issues in the alcohol sector and urges the Department of Health and local commissioners to act on its key findings.” John Jolly, CEO, Blenheim.

The alcohol treatment system has been through a period of great change in the last three years. Almost 70% of respondents reported that their local services had been recommissioned in that period. The majority of respondents felt that alcohol services were improving with alcohol treatment services benefiting from joining with drug services and accessing the resources in the former pooled treatment budget.

Blenheim welcomes the finding that public health commissioners across the country consider alcohol a priority and that services are generally showing significant improvement.

The clearest message in the report is the challenge of meeting the needs of more complex service users.

The report raises a number of areas of concern shared by Blenheim;

  • The failure to meet the needs of the dually diagnosed. The view was that this ongoing problem may be worsening because budgets have been cut in mental health services and they are now commissioned by a separate body (CCGs) from alcohol services (Public Health). This represents a real blockage in the pathway of care for problem drinkers. Moreover it is not one that can easily be resolved at the local level.
  • The widely held view that the physical health of alcohol service users is worsening. This links to national concerns about the rising rate of alcohol related liver disease. This raised questions about professional training and whether the pressure to reduce costs is reducing knowledge about physical ill-health.
  • Chaotic, change-resistant service users have higher rates of both mental and physical health problems and because they are treatment resistant can be missed in target driven re-commissioning structures. The feedback was clear that this is a priority group that needs to be addressed.
  • The needs of eastern European drinkers were frequently highlighted but the emphasis was dependent on the size of the local population. However, this was the single most frequently mentioned change in the alcohol field and is clearly presenting problems to local treatment providers.
  • The needs of carers and concerned others were also seen as a group that received too little help and would benefit from further support.
  • Problems with the tendering process suggest the need for a review and guidance on how to balance competition and service user needs when tendering in the alcohol field. Linkages are breaking down between agencies because of the turnover in provision and agencies are being turned into competitors with a detrimental effect on care pathways.
  • Concerns about various aspects of professional training were identified: A treatment system that faces frequent recommissioning will need a strong system of professional accreditation to ensure the maintenance of standards. In general respondents felt that more training and a system of professional accreditation is required.

You can read the full report here – Alcohol Treatment Review 2015.

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