Accessible services for those dependent on alcohol

Accessible services for those dependent on alcohol

By Will Haydock

Many of us enjoy a drink, and most of us do so without serious negative effects. However, a surprising number of people aren’t just putting themselves at risk by drinking too much alcohol; they’ve actually become physically dependent on it. That is, their body would have a serious physical reaction if they stopped drinking.

Locally, the number of dependent drinkers is broadly in line with the national average and it’s not increasing or decreasing significantly – but that means that more than 1 person in every 100 adults is dependent on alcohol. That makes for 3,420 people in Dorset, 2,850 in Bournemouth and 1,448 in Poole. And we know that most of these people aren’t accessing specialist support for their condition. In fact, they may not even realise they’re dependent.

The specialist services that are available locally are provided by a mixture of NHS and charity staff, and are funded by your local council. Public Health Dorset works with these services to make sure they’re offering support where it’s needed most, in line with the latest evidence.

Public Health England (PHE), which offers national guidance to local public health teams, has published a report looking at local alcohol treatment services with some ideas about what’s working well, what’s not working so well, and how we can improve what we do.

PHE suggest that there are lots of possible reasons why not everyone who could benefit from treatment is accessing support. In simple terms, people might not be aware they could benefit from treatment, and they might not know what support is out there. And then there are concerns that, even if people do know how to get help, they don’t like the way it’s delivered, or the location isn’t accessible for them.

Across Bournemouth, Poole and Dorset we pride ourselves on having accessible, welcoming services.

In Dorset, REACH have bases in Weymouth, Gillingham and Christchurch, and offer 1:1 and group support in a range of other locations across the county, including Bridport, Dorchester, Ferndown and Blandford just to name a few.

In Bournemouth, there’s support from a range of locations provided by Addaction and Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust.

And in Poole you can pop in to the Serenitea café on Ashley Road or any of the other services offered by EDAS, and the hospital offers support not only to patients there but further afield even after they’ve finished their stay.

All these services offer support not just to people who find they’re drinking too much, but also their friends and family, who we know can experience major challenges in trying to support the person they care for.

And if you’re concerned about your own drinking you can always talk to your GP or LiveWell Dorset in the first instance.

But of course we’re facing all the pressures that are described in the PHE report, and there’s still hundreds of people locally who could benefit from support who aren’t yet accessing it.

That’s why alcohol is a key part of the work we’re doing to develop a Dorset Integrated Care System. The model of care and outreach provided by the hospital has been picked out by the Local Government Association as an example of best practice nationally, and it’s something we’re trying to build up so it’s available to all residents wherever they live in the county.

Alcohol isn’t an issue that affects just one organisation, and we all need to play our part in making sure we ask people the right questions and offer them the right support at the right time. We have a vision of a system where there is no wrong door for people who are looking for support in relation to their drinking, and where people can receive that support in the format and location that suits them.

We know that improving access to alcohol treatment saves money in the long-term, and improves the safety and quality of life for everyone in our local community. Here at Public Health Dorset we’re always looking for ways to make our services more accessible and welcoming. If you have any comments, ideas or questions, please get in touch.

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