Policy and practice in England

26 April 2018

In partnership with the Institute of Alcohol Studies, this report highlights that people who have difficulties with alcohol and mental health are still not getting the help and support they need.

The report is based on a survey and seminar session held with professionals working in mental health and/or alcohol services across the country. It finds that co-morbidity is a barrier to treatment, and support for people with co-occurring alcohol and mental health problems is too often poor and fragmented.

Support for homeless people with complex needs is particularly poor, with more than half of survey respondents suggesting they receive worse than average access to services (61%) and 46% suggesting they receive a worse than average standard of service.

A number of barriers to improving this picture are identified. Lack of understanding and join-up between services, funding and workforce shortages, and stigma facing those with co-morbidities are major problems – indeed, more than 90% of survey respondents viewed funding shortages as a problem.

People who have alcohol and mental health problems are not well recognised in national policy. Mental health issues are poorly addressed in government alcohol policies, while alcohol is barely mentioned in national mental health policies including the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health. And budget constraints in both substance misuse and mental health services have put extra pressure on services already struggling to meet people’s needs.

The report calls for concerted national leadership to improve the support offered to people with alcohol and mental health problems. It recommends the Government develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy for England that will include both population level measures to address alcohol harm (including on price, marketing and licensing) and service level action to ensure more people get effective help. It recommends that the successor to the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health prioritises help for people with co-occurring alcohol problems. And makes further specific recommendations relating to all areas of service provision and co-morbidity, including calls for urgent action to review the funding and staffing of addiction services.

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