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NHS APA 2021 Conference

The Impact of Stigma on People with Addiction: The Effect on Policy & Practice

Stigma all too often prevents a person from seeking or accessing the vital treatment and support they need to recover from addiction. This year’s NHS Addictions Provider Alliance Conference will spotlight the problem of stigma.


This year’s NHS Addictions Provider Alliance Conference, taking place on the 13th of October, will address the problem of stigma, which is a critical element to improving understanding of the complex issues surrounding addiction and a vital step in improving access to treatment and services.

The free, virtual event will consider how to overcome this significant challenge by addressing: the impact of stigma on people who directly experience this through their lived experience; how stigma impacts access to treatment and services; how stigma influences the way policies and practices are set; how the sector can begin to overcome these challenges and change public perceptions around drug and alcohol treatment services; and how the disconnect with the rest of the health care economy perpetuates stigma.

The day will feature a range of speakers, including clinical professionals as well as people who have lived experience. People from a range of organisations and backgrounds will be represented.

Danny Hames, Chair of the NHS Addictions Provider Alliance, said: “Shame, guilt, and prejudice are some of the most difficult experiences many people living with addictions will face while often battling with withdrawal symptoms, mental health problems, and an overall deterioration in their life."

“This conference will make a conscious effort to find ways to create a better understanding of how stigma affects people’s access to treatment and services within the addiction field and wider health and social care services on an individual, community, regional and national levels. Our speakers and delegates will all contribute to the debate and discuss practical ways how we as a sector can challenge and tackle this issue and talk about change and solutions to the problems that stigma presents.”

“It is important to remember that addiction can affect anyone,” continued Danny, “it affects thousands of people in the UK, and their friends, families, work colleagues and society in general. ​Most people who experience addiction can be safer by being supported to improve and make positive steps forward including many who will recover. This requires the full spectrum of treatment, support and social networks being available to them. However, even though so many people are affected, the strong social stigma attached to addiction remains and must be challenged.”


The conference is held during a milestone year for the addictions treatment and services sector as the much-anticipated second first part of the Dame Carol Black independent review of drugs is released and the announcement of the extra £80 million investment, the largest increase in drug treatment funding for 15 years.


Danny said: “The future does look brighter following the funding announcement of £80 million from the government which mirrors the NHS APA’s absolute commitment to reduce drug-related deaths and substance misuse. A longer-term settlement is necessary, however, to make ongoing and sustained improvements. There is still a long way to go though, and a key enabler of success will be addressing the issue of stigma.”

Following the success of last year’s online conference, Danny said: “Attendee levels and feedback last year was tremendous and has proven that running our conferences virtually allows many professionals from across the sector to join in the discussions, learning and debate around important topics. The virtual format allows us to highlight the important issues that are faced and tackled by the NHS APA and as an alliance, we are committed to providing an open platform for this to happen.”



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