Agencies under pressure as capital’s drink misusers wait longer for help

Alcohol misusers in London are waiting at least twice as long as
drugs misusers for treatment, a charity has found,
writes Maria Ahmed.

The London Drug and Alcohol Network said people waited on average
five weeks for alcohol treatment, compared with one or two weeks
for drug treatment.

Its chief executive, Shona Beaton, said alcohol agencies were
“struggling to cope with the numbers coming through their

She added: “More work needs to be done to understand why problem
drinkers are waiting this long for treatment and to address
resource issues identified.”

The network’s analysis of nearly 7,000 people from 27 London
boroughs in contact with alcohol services last year also finds that
many organisations did not have the resources to monitor provision

The report identifies a “distinct lack of knowledge” over what was
happening with alcohol services, gaps in provision, length of
waiting times and whether treatment met people’s needs.

It says data collection and analysis for commissioners and funders
placed a “significant burden” on alcohol treatment providers
because of a lack of effective systems.

The report suggests that “standardisation” of data collection
methods on performance management, commissioning and client
monitoring “would greatly increase providers’ efficiency”.

It also points to the lack of specific funding from the Department
of Health for alcohol treatment services compared with drug
services, and the absence of an overall national body with
responsibility for monitoring alcohol treatment.

The government’s National Treatment Agency is working on a national
framework for treatment, called Models of Care for Alcohol
Misusers, due in November.

While the agency does not have a formal remit for alcohol services,
it was given the task of producing the framework as part of the
government’s Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy. The framework will be
accompanied by a review of the evidence base and cost-effectiveness
of alcohol treatment.

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