Government seeks views on improving alcohol treatment services

Public consultation launched on first UK-wide guidelines for clinical treatment of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence

  • Government working in partnership with devolved administrations to develop a clear consensus on best practice for specialist treatment
  • Guidelines aim to support health and care sector with high-quality resources to help treat people with alcohol dependency issues

Health and social care services are being urged to work together to treat those suffering from alcohol dependency as the government consults on new guidelines for the treatment of harmful drinking and alcohol dependence.

Developed in partnership with the devolved administrations, the new UK-wide draft guidelines aim to develop a clear consensus on best practice for treatment for alcohol dependence, ultimately improving outcomes for patients.

The consultation will be open for 8 weeks, inviting views from people working in alcohol treatment, the wider health and care sector, and those with lived experience of alcohol dependence across the UK.

Minister for Public Health, Neil O’Brien, said:

"To maximise the impact of our £532 million investment into substance misuse treatment, it is vital that treatment for those with alcohol dependence is informed by the best scientific and medical expertise, as well as the views of those with lived experience.

"This consultation will help us develop guidance to ensure alcohol treatment services are of consistently high quality, providing stronger pathways to recovery for those in need of treatment for alcohol dependence."

Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Jeanelle de Gruchy, said:

"These UK-wide guidelines will provide a clear consensus for health and care services on best practice for alcohol treatment, resulting in better outcomes for those who need treatment and care.

"I encourage anyone who works in alcohol treatment services, and anyone with experience using them, to contribute your views to the 8-week consultation to ensure that the guidelines are as robust and person-centred as possible."

The alcohol clinical guidelines will provide:  

  • a detailed framework to support providers with high quality alcohol treatment guidance that can help inform the quality of their services 
  • guidance for health and social care staff involved in helping people experiencing alcohol dependence or drinking at harmful levels
  • guidance on managing and supporting treatment pathways, such as between hospitals or prisons and the community
  • a reference point for national regulatory bodies when inspecting alcohol treatment services

The guidelines recommend:

  • specialist alcohol treatment and wider health and social care services work together to provide integrated care for people experiencing alcohol dependence
  • alcohol treatment services working with lived experience recovery organisations

They also provide specific recommendations for supporting specific groups with managing alcohol dependency. For example, there is a chapter on pregnancy and perinatal care, with recommendations for professionals on supporting pregnant women to stop drinking safely, and a chapter providing guidance to those working in the criminal justice system to tackle alcohol misuse among prisoners.

The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities developed the draft guidelines in collaboration with the devolved governments, senior UK clinical experts, and people with experience of alcohol treatment. They are modelled on the UK clinical guidelines on drug misuse and dependence (the Orange Book), published in 2017.

The main aim of the guidelines is to develop a clearer consensus on good practice and how to implement NICE-recommended interventions. This will promote and support consistent high quality in the provision of alcohol treatment services, resulting in better outcomes for people in need of treatment.

Department of Health and Social Care
Neil O'Brien MP