Access to Specialist Community Alcohol Treatment in England, and the Relationship with Alcohol-Related Hospital Admissions: Qualitative Study of Service Users, Service Providers and Service Commissioners
Since 2012 England has seen year-on-year reductions in people accessing specialist community alcohol treatment, and year-on-year increases in alcohol-related hospital admissions.
The researchers examined perceived barriers to accessing specialist treatment, and perceived reasons behind hospital admission increases.
The researchers conducted focus groups (n = 4) with service users and semi-structured interviews (n = 16) with service providers and service commissioners at four specialist community alcohol services in England, which experience either high or low rates of alcohol dependence prevalence and treatment access. Themes and sub-themes were generated deductively drawing upon Rhodes’ risk environment thesis. Data were organised using the framework approach.
Data reveal a treatment sector profoundly affected at all levels by changes implemented in the Health and Social Care Act (HSCA) 2012. Substantial barriers to access exist, even in services with high access rates. Concerns regarding funding cuts and recommissioning processes are at the forefront of providers’ and commissioners’ minds. The lack of cohesion between community and hospital alcohol services, where hospital services exist, has potentially created an environment enabling the reduced numbers of people accessing specialist treatment.
This study reveals a treatment sector struggling with a multitude of problems; these pervade despite enaction of the Health and Social Care Act, and are present at the national, service provider and individual service level. Although the researchers acknowledge the problems are varied and multifaceted, their existence is echoed by the united voices of service users, service providers and service commissioners.