Online programme provides round the clock addiction recovery support for NHS APA members

NHS Addictions Provider Alliance members have commissioned a technology initiative to boost levels of support for its service users, making interventions more engaging, powerful, and accessible than ever before.


Breaking Free Online is a computer-assisted therapy programme for drug and alcohol addiction and the latest version has helped 75,000 service users to date by equipping them with specific clinically robust techniques needed to achieve long-term recovery.


It has been especially valuable during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as it supports those who can’t access face-to-face counselling, group sessions or peer networks because of the restrictions imposed.


Available as a desktop-based web programme, Breaking Free Online has seen an increase in all activities taking place outside of traditional 9 to 5 working hours.


“The support online is unlimited, meaning that service users can access it whenever and however often they need, which is something we cannot replicate in person,” explained David Cupit, Commercial and Information Lead at Inclusion. “Breaking Free has allowed users to access services when we are shut, which means that 48 percent of support is taking place when previously it would have been unavailable.”

“Breaking Free has allowed users to access services when we are shut, which means that 48 percent of support is taking place when previously it would have been unavailable.”

Addiction treatment services have had to adapt swiftly over the course of the pandemic to best support service users during such an unsettling and difficult time, and for some dependency may have increased and their journey to recovery slowed due to issues such as social isolation and disconnecting with support networks.


David explained: “The Breaking Free Online programme has helped us overcome these issues by increasing choices for service users on how they receive support and empowering them to take charge of their treatment. A massive 95.6 percent of people who engage with the service complete their courses, which is unparalleled as community drop-outs are around 25 percent due to a variety of reasons.”


“It has also improved equality of access,” continued David, “the demographic is almost fifty-fifty now for male and female ratios, which is significantly better than in the community where it is around at seventy-thirty.”

The service is web-based and designed to ensure that as many people as possible can access and benefit from the service.

Breaking Free Online has been endorsed by The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and has been developed using robust evidence and behavioural science to provide engaging, interactive, and motivational digital interventions for substance addiction recovery with 36 peer-reviewed studies supporting it.


Glyn Davies, Service Development Director at the Breaking Free Group, explained: “The ongoing restrictions and social distancing measures imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused severe disruption to drug and alcohol services and prevented many people from accessing the interventions and support they need.


“As a digital solution, it is designed to augment and strengthen in-person treatment services and provide interactive sets of behaviour change interventions, including full voiceover to engage varying learning styles.”


It is easy to use and a key advantage is that it provides support around the clock for service users. NHS APA members can also optimise its implementation with the provision of an outcomes dashboard that monitors the reach and impact of interventions in real time. The programme is fully confidential, GDPR compliant, and service users can share their work and progress with service providers at distance.


Service users are fully in control of their data and can even elect to delete their digital footprint.


The service is web-based and designed to ensure that as many people as possible can access and benefit from the service, and this is further complemented with a Companion App which focuses on strengthening service users’ longer-term recovery journey.


Glyn said: “The Companion App is designed to help get even more from the Breaking Free Online programme. Service users can access it via their smartphone to use a range of tools and techniques to instantly help manage cravings and heightened emotional states. This includes notifications of coping methods when in high-risk places and essential coping strategies that are tailored to the individual; nudges to prompt action planning steps that are often forgotten; and alerts to help plan time positively.”

“Breaking Free has filled a clear gap in provision and developed new ways to promote behaviour change, which is creating significant ways for people to recover, rehabilitate and live the lives that they want.”

In addition, a second ‘Staying Free’ App, is designed to provide additional support for service users requiring a less intensive behaviour change intervention and is tailored around preventative measures by providing a streamlined support package version of the in-depth clinical interventions provided in Breaking Free Online.


Implementation is key to integrating a digital intervention into an in-person treatment system, so comprehensive training, delivered through an eLearning Platform provides a series of online learning modules and tutorials alongside treatment manuals, case studies, and practical resources is available for practitioners, peer mentors, and service managers to not only help them implement and use the system but support the service users on an ongoing basis.


Breaking Free Online is the ultimate outreach tool as you can meet service users in their homes, at their own convenience and this helps overcome many treatment barriers such as feelings of shame and stigma, through to practical barriers like rurality, distance to services, access to public transport, time constraints and many more. Another benefit of using the programme is that of digital inclusion and how service users can build their IT confidence and skills as they look to move into education, training and employment.


David concluded: “Breaking Free has filled a clear gap in provision and developed new ways to promote behaviour change, which is creating significant ways for people to recover, rehabilitate and live the lives that they want.”


Breaking Free Online is available to substance misuse treatment and recovery services across the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.


Visit the website.


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