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Addiction Services: A New Approach is Needed

The Health Service Journal has published a new article today investigating the provision of alcohol and substance misuse detoxification services and the availability of inpatient detoxification beds by local authorities in England.


The article written by Dr Daniel Poulter MP, Jonathon Foster and NHS APA Vice Chair, Dr Emily Finch compares data from 2013/14 and 2019/20 highlighting the significant negative impact disinvestment in NHS inpatient detoxification units has had on patient safety and service user wellbeing.

From the data we can clearly see the substantial rise in cost of inpatient detoxification treatments delivered by local authorities which contradicts the decreased number of patients receiving inpatient detoxification. Local authorities currently rely on ‘block-purchased’ detoxification beds supplied by non-NHS, third sector and private providers. Due to there being very few permanently available ‘block purchased’ detoxification beds, local authorities rely heavily on ad hoc ‘spot-purchasing’ agreements with these providers resulting in unnecessary overspend.


“Public Health England have suggested that the trend to non specialist alcohol detoxification could be due to financial pressures on local authorities. PHE concedes that this has resulted in increased barriers to access and reduced availability of specialist treatment”


The specialist care required in order to provide patients and service users with the prospect of long term recovery can only be implemented by “NHS providers who are much better placed to ensure holistic healthcare to a patient population with both acute and chronic physical as well as mental illness”

Additionally, the article considers the steep rise in alcohol and drug related deaths in 2020 alone (a 20% year on year increase) against the decline in numbers of medical professionals training in addictions, what this means for the future of addictions services and how vitally important it is to return “the responsibility for both the commissioning and the provision of clinical addictions services to the NHS”.



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