Investing in and improving treatment and support services
The onset of COVID-19, and the necessary public health measures taken to contain the pandemic have shone a light on the patchy and often disjointed nature of our existing alcohol treatment, support and recovery services. Twenty-five years ago, the European Charter on Alcohol stated that all people have the right to accessible treatment and care for alcohol problems. In Scotland, we are still not as close to achieving this ethical principle as we should be.
With the threat of economic recession looming, and the potential that this will impact alcohol-related harm, it is essential that alcohol treatment and support services are not overlooked. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive review of and increased investment in alcohol treatment and support services in Scotland. In addition, SHAAP is calling for the following:
- That alcohol treatment and support services adopt policies and be resourced to encourage maintenance of contact. Measures should include the establishment of alcohol care teams in acute hospitals, expanding the Navigator service in emergency departments, maintaining telephone contact with people who have not attended appointments, and offering intensive outreach to the most vulnerable.
- That services, including primary care services, take a holistic approach to referral and care, and that they communicate with each other across areas of focus – for instance, in the case of mental health and addiction services.
- That the training, implementation and monitoring elements of Scotland’s innovative Alcohol Brief Intervention (ABI) programme be reviewed in line with recent advances in knowledge to ensure it is effective and efficient. This review should include wider settings such as criminal justice and social care.
- That equity of access to alcohol services be promoted through incorporating the specific needs of diverse groups and populations into service design and delivery, including LGBT+ communities, refugees and asylum seekers, older people and rural communities in Scotland.
- That investment in alcohol services should correspond in scale to the level of local need and disadvantage, following a principle of proportionate universalism.
In addition, it is SHAAP’s view that all services should exercise ‘professional optimism’. This means giving everyone who seeks help a supportive and positive environment to start or continue the recovery journey, free from stigma. The development of knowledge and skills regarding alcohol should be an integral part of health and social care staff development.