Drug misusers cannot access treatment, Audit Commission report finds

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

‘Changing Habits’ finds that clients experience difficulties
accessing drug treatment with weak assessment procedures, uneven
availability of services, and lengthy delays.

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

Survey respondents reported how long waiting times and
allocation processes – which involved repeat appointments and
further delays – stopped them from accessing a service.

“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 says.

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 services.

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

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 is required to meet a
client’s need and minimise the “revolving door” syndrome.

Changing Habits from www.audit-commission.gov.uk/home

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