Poor investment and staff shortages leaving alcohol treatment services ‘at crisis point’

Alcohol treatment services have reached “crisis” point in England as poor investment and staff shortages eat away at their ability to operate, a report has warned.

A study by the recently merged Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK surveyed 154 professionals linked to the sector, including nurses and GPs.

It found only 12% felt that resources were sufficient within their area, while cuts to services of between 10% and 58% were reported.

The situation was said to have worsened over the last three years by 59% of respondents, particularly at areas such as residential rehabilitation facilities.

The findings will be launched at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm on Tuesday.

“Substance use treatment services in England are, it appears, facing a crisis,” the report said.

It continued: “The challenges facing alcohol treatment services are numerous and, in many cases, acute.

“They are, undoubtedly, a consequence of funding cuts which have gone beyond what a functioning system can sustain if the goal is the meaningful reduction of harm to individuals, families and communities.

“Alcohol services cannot survive at their current level of funding.”

Around 595,000 people are believed to be dependent on alcohol in England and in need of specialist support, of whom 108,000 receive treatment, according to a 2017 study from the University of Sheffield.

It is thought approximately 200,000 children are cared for by someone with a drinking problem.

The report calls on the Government to develop a national strategy for tackling alcoholism, “plug the gap in treatment funding” and order a national review into staffing problems.

Dr Richard Piper (pictured), CEO of the new charity formed by the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, said: “Around 595,000 people in the UK are dependent on alcohol. It’s clear that the Government must develop a national alcohol strategy to address the harm they and their families face, and include treatment at its heart to reduce the suffering of the four in every five who currently do not access the services they need.

“This report shows very clearly what action is needed and we urge policy-makers, practitioners and service providers to join together to implement these recommendations to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are in desperate need of support.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2018, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Alcohol Research UK.