Public Health England inquiry into falling alcohol treatment numbers

  • Public Health England

  • from Dawn O'Shea
  • UK Medical News
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The PHE inquiry into alcohol has determined that NHS financial pressures and service reconfiguration are largely to blame for the worrying drop in the number of people entering treatment for alcohol problems in England.

The Public Health England (PHE) inquiry into the fall in numbers of people in alcohol treatment has concluded that there is a risk that the falling trend in the numbers in alcohol treatment will continue unless local areas ensure that strategic and commissioning plans, service specifications, referral pathways and treatment expertise meet alcohol-specific treatment needs.

Analysis of data from the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS) shows that the number of people entering treatment who were only dependent on alcohol fell from 65,110 to 52,383 between the years 2013-2014 and 2016-2017. Since the inquiry took place, the 2017-2018 statistics show another fall in people entering treatment to 50,656.

The inquiry concluded that the context in which treatment is currently commissioned and provided, including financial pressures and service reconfiguration, has affected alcohol treatment numbers more than treatment numbers for other substances.

The inquiry’s report states that areas where there had been a fall in numbers also more often reported an erosion of effective referral pathways. This was partly due to staff and commissioners having less time to maintain working relationships with partners, or referrers losing confidence in the service following a period of upheaval.

PHE says it will use the findings of the inquiry to inform the proposed government alcohol strategy due in 2019. The organisation has also advised NHS England that the NHS long-term plan should include the development of alcohol care teams in every hospital.