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New guide for primary care professionals on rehab care

Proper skills-mix crucial to help patient recovery

Jo Carlowe

Friday, 21 September 2012

New guidance published this week highlights the need for the right skills mix and clinical expertise to support the recovery of people with drug and alcohol problems.

Delivering quality care for drug and alcohol users: the roles and competencies of doctors, published by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Psychiatrists,  provides a clear analysis of the medical competencies involved in working with drug and alcohol users.

The guide acknowledges the crucial importance of adequate supervision and clinical governance in providing safe and effective care to service users. The Colleges also say it will help commissioners, employers and others to meet their legal and regulatory requirements and provide a high quality service to those seeking recovery. In addition, the guide will help doctors working in the sector to ensure that they are meeting General Medical Council requirements on revalidation.

Doctors supporting drug or alcohol users come from a variety of medical backgrounds (mainly General Practice and Psychiatry) and have varying degrees of specialist competency.

The guide identifies three levels of competency that apply across all doctors:

  • Generalist – eg: GPs and doctors in emergency departments,
  • Intermediate – eg: GPs with special clinical interests or extended roles
  • Specialist – eg: addiction psychiatrists

The guide maps out how levels of competency relate to service user needs, and to available training and qualifications. It also draws out broader implications for commissioning drug and alcohol services. 

Dr Emily Finch, Clinical Director for Addictions at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the working group that produced the report, said: “High quality evidence-based medical treatment can be a key part of recovery. As with any other area of medicine, it must be delivered by doctors with the right competencies to work safely and achieve the best possible outcomes. 

“Doctors with generalist, intermediate and specialist levels of competency in this field all have an important role to play and this report should help ensure they are all deployed in the right way so that everyone – including the most vulnerable - gets the care they need.”

Dr Linda Harris, Medical Director of RCGP Substance Misuse and Associated Health, welcomed the report, saying: “This guidance builds on the excellent work established across the two Royal Colleges to champion clinical excellence in the treatment of substance misuse disorders. The revised competency framework illustrates how primary care professionals can make a proactive contribution to the recovery of people with drug or alcohol problems, setting out the associated training and support needed to deliver such important extended roles.”

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