Service users deterred by long waiting times and poor procedures

Drug misusers face numerous problems accessing
treatment services and getting the help they need, claims a new
report by the Audit Commission.

Changing Habits finds that clients
experience difficulties gaining access to drug treatment with weak
assessment procedures, uneven availability of services and lengthy

According to the report, care often fails to
meet individual needs. Poor service planning, low levels of
commissioning expertise and the funding framework make improvements
difficult, it adds.

Survey respondents reported how long waiting
times and allocation processes, which involved repeat appointments
and further delays, stopped them from gaining access to a

“Lengthy waiting lists can drive clients away.
In one area where prospective clients routinely waited five months
for an appointment at the community drug service, only one out of
three clients offered an appointment ever attended,” the report

It claims that long waits have other adverse
effects too, such as increasing the risk of service choice being
driven by availability rather than need, and of local agencies
being reluctant to make onward referrals.

“A number of street agencies reported that
they rarely referred people to prescribing services or social
services departments because they knew they would simply be put on
a waiting list,” says the report.

Among community drug teams the average waiting
time for prescribing services was 35 days and there were also
lengthy delays for community and inpatient detoxification

Most social services departments responded to
referrals with assessments within 14 days, but one site took almost
80 days.

There were also marked variations in the time
taken to complete assessments and place people in residential
services, with an average response time of around eight weeks.

The report makes 20 recommendations and states
that more effective assessment and care planning are required to
meet a client’s need and to minimise the “revolving door”

Changing Habits from


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