Government announces major workforce expansion for the field

More addiction psychiatry posts and new training curricula for drug and alcohol workers, children and young people’s workers, and peer support staff form part of a new ten-year workforce plan launched by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and NHS England (NHSE).

New training curricula for the currently unregulated roles will be available by March 2025, with accredited training two years later. More regulated professionals in the sector will lead to high-quality clinical governance and supervision, the government states, with the addiction psychiatry training posts also available by March 2025.

The workforce plan aims to help people to get their lives back on track.

The national workforce plan – the first of its kind for the drug and alcohol sector – includes one-year, three-year and ten-year milestones, and builds on the drug strategy’s workforce expansion of 800 more medical and mental health professionals, 950 drug and alcohol and criminal justice workers, and more commissioners in every local authority area by the end of 2024-25. Almost 4,000 additional staff have already been recruited using drug strategy funding, the government adds.

The plan and forthcoming capability framework will provide the foundation for ‘better and more consistent training, career progression and longer-term workforce planning’ the document states, with three overarching priorities of reform, recruit, and ‘train, develop and retain’. The plan aims to provide clarity on the roles required to deliver effective services and standardise and accredit training for drug and alcohol staff, as well as increase the sector’s professional mix, attract and retain ‘more medics, nurses, psychologists, social workers and pharmacists’ and ‘significantly improve’ the quality and coverage of clinical supervision. It will also develop the pipeline for regulated professionals entering the system. The overall aim is to promote a culture that ‘prioritises workforce wellbeing and career development’, improves caseload management and establishes a ‘firm foundation for future workforce development’, the document states.

Victoria Atkins: The plan ‘marks a step change’

The workforce plan ‘marks a step change in the development of the workforce, supporting the delivery of world-class, evidence-based drug and alcohol treatment and recovery systems of care by 2034’, it says. It will ‘expand and boost the training of the next generation of drug and alcohol workers to improve services and support people to get their lives back on track,’ said health secretary Victoria Atkins.

Dame Carol Black: Delighted that key recommendation has been listened to on rebuilding workforce

‘I am delighted that the government has delivered on one of the key recommendations from my Independent review of drugs with a new ten-year plan to help rebuild the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce,’ said Dame Carol Black. ‘It is imperative that this vital, specialist part of the health workforce has the skills and capacity to help people who are dependent on drugs and alcohol make positive changes to their lives.’

The plan sets out a ‘clear set of actions to increase capacity in the system and the quality of services’, added chief operating officer at Turning Point and interim chair of Collective Voice, Clare Taylor. ‘It recognises the need for the right mix of medical and mental health professionals working alongside keyworkers and peer support workers and should help strengthen clinical governance to enable the best possible outcomes for the people we support. Working in this sector can be incredibly rewarding, and formalising training routes and developing better opportunities for career progression will help ensure it’s a sector people want to join.’ Continued drug strategy funding beyond March 2025 would be essential in ensuring the plans can come to fruition, she added.

Ed Day: A crucial step towards a ‘full continuum of care’

The plan would also be crucial to delivering a ‘full continuum of care from harm reduction, through engagement and behaviour change, to long-term recovery support’, said government recovery champion Dr Ed Day. ‘The clear timescales plot a road map to rebuilding the full range of regulated professional roles within the field, alongside proper accreditation of the drug and alcohol worker role. The emphasis on strengthening clinical supervision in the short term, and training and accreditation in the longer term, will allow a greater focus on delivery of quality psychosocial interventions. I particularly welcome the definition of the peer support worker role and everything that it can bring to the treatment and recovery system. This role is a crucial part of the recovery-oriented system of care and requires its own training and supervision structure to ensure that it has parity of esteem in the wider system.’

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has also announced plans to allow more police, paramedics, nurses, probation workers and others to provide take-home naloxone without a prescription. The government will ‘shortly’ be updating legislation to expand the number of professions and services that can supply naloxone, meaning it ‘can be given to a family member or friend of a person who is known to be using opiates or to an outreach worker for a homelessness service working with people who use these drugs, to save lives in the event of an overdose’, it says.

Drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce programme available here 

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