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Drug users need more joined-up care

NICE calls for NHS to better integrate with social and voluntary services

Louise Prime

Thursday, 22 November 2012

An integrated approach to care is fundamental to helping adults with drug use disorders to overcome the health inequalities they face as a result of their addiction, NICE has said. It also calls for commissioners to make sure that drug services support people who have given up drugs for at least 6 months.

NICE points out in its latest quality standard that people who misuse opioids, cannabis, stimulants or other drugs often lead lifestyles that contribute to poor health including, if they inject, vulnerability to blood-borne viruses and other infections. It says that better-integrated care would prevent people from dying prematurely, enhance quality of life for those with long-term conditions, help recovery from episodes of ill health or following injury, and ensure that they have a positive experience of care.

The quality standard states that:

  • people accessing drug treatment should be offered a comprehensive assessment of their drug use and resources for recovery
  • families and carers of people who misuse drugs should be offered an assessment of their personal, social and mental health needs
  • people in drug treatment should be offered support to access services that promote recovery and reintegration including housing, education, employment, personal finance, healthcare and mutual aid.

The standard also sets out the support that is expected for people who are abstinent:

  • service providers must ensure systems are in place for people who have achieved abstinence to be offered continued treatment and support for at least 6 months
  • healthcare professionals must offer people who have achieved abstinence continued treatment and support for at least 6 months
  • commissioners must ensure they commission services that offer continued treatment and support for at least 6 months for people who have achieved abstinence
  • people who have achieved abstinence must be offered continued treatment and support for at least 6 months.

NICE’s deputy chief executive and director of health and social care Professor Gillian Leng said: “This new quality standard aims to drive improvements in key areas of the drug use treatment pathway, by providing a set of measurable markers to help demonstrate how services are performing. Drug use disorders are a serious problem in England and Wales. In 2010 alone, there were around 1800 deaths related to drug misuse. It is important that there is a joined-up approach in addressing the issues surrounding drug use disorders and this new quality standard sets out what needs to be done in order to make sure that every individual is receiving the best possible care and support.”

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