Decline in training posts could see addiction psychiatry being wiped out in decade, experts warn
Psychiatry doctors specialising in addiction could become a thing of the past unless action is taken to stop the decline in training posts, experts have warned.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists said funding cuts and a loss of posts when services are transferred to non-NHS providers – such as charities and independent providers – is having a big impact on the ability to offer services to those in need.
Addiction psychiatry covers doctors working in several areas, including gambling, drug abuse and alcohol addiction.
The college’s new report shows the number of higher training posts across England has fallen by 58%, from 64 in 2011 to just 27 in 2019, leaving some regions without a single trainee.
It said the problem is not due to a lack of trainees willing to take up posts in addiction psychiatry.
Rather, responsibility for the delivery and funding of addiction services was removed from the NHS and given to local councils in 2012.
As a result, funding for addiction services in England fell by £234 million (25%) in real terms from 2013/14 to 2018/19, meaning providers must cut costs to secure contracts.
The college is calling for urgent government funding to protect existing places and to create training posts.
Its study found that, in 2019, there were just 16 people in higher training posts that would give them a qualification in addiction psychiatry in England,
Five out of 12 English regions – the South West Peninsula, Severn, Wessex, Thames Valley and Kent Surrey and Sussex – had no such posts.
Professor Julia Sinclair (pictured), chairwoman of the addictions faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists and co-author of the report, said: “This report reveals the meltdown that has occurred within addiction psychiatry across the UK, but especially in England.
“Without urgent investment from government, training in the specialist skills that are an essential part of the treatment system could be wiped out in a decade, depriving thousands of people with this life-threatening condition access to the specialist help they need to recover and rebuild their lives.
“Assessment and treatment of people with complex medical and social needs arising out of addictions are the essential skills of the addiction psychiatrist.
“Helping bring people back from the brink of death and turn their lives around are just two of the many reasons why addictions psychiatry is such a vital career.”
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