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New commissioning guide for alcohol services

31 August 2011

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today published a guide to help improve the identification and treatment of hazardous drinking, harmful drinking and alcohol dependence in children, young people and adults. The guide can help the NHS and local authorities to make best use of resources.

The commissioning guide draws on the suite of recently published NICE guidance on alcohol use disorders. It will also support commissioners to commission high quality alcohol services that meet the NICE quality standard on alcohol dependence and harmful alcohol use, published today.

The commissioning guide is illustrated with service models from the NHS and also highlights where commissioning alcohol services in line with NICE guidance will support national drivers such as the Quality, Innovation, Productivity and Prevention (QIPP) programme and Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN).

Professor Colin Drummond, Professor of Addiction Psychiatry and Consultant Psychiatrist at King’s College London and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that the majority of people who are dependent on alcohol are not currently being treated, partly because they are not being identified and because of the limited availability of treatment services in some parts of the country. For example, although over one million people in England are dependent on alcohol, only around 10% of these currently receive treatment.

“It would be helpful to increase the vigilance of health professionals in the NHS to identify people who misuse alcohol, provide brief advice and appropriately refer them to specialist treatment at an earlier stage. This will require wider training for NHS staff and increased capacity of specialist alcohol treatment services.

While the commissioning guide draws on existing NICE recommendations, it does not constitute formal NICE guidance and is intended as a tool to help the NHS improve patient care through effective commissioning of services.