Services for people struggling with alcohol dependency have reached a crisis point, according to a new study. Only 12% of 154 health professionals linked to the sector felt that resources in their area were sufficient.

In the report from recently merged Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK, 59% of respondents felt the situation had become worse over the past 3 years, with residential rehabilitation facilities hit the hardest. A lack of sufficient investment and not enough staff were blamed by many health professionals for the poor state of the sector. Additional funding is needed or the sector won’t survive, the report found. Cuts to services of between 10% and 58% were highlighted.

Public Health England estimates that around 595,000 people in England are in need of specialist alcohol treatment. Approximately 200,000 children are cared for by someone with a drinking problem. However, in 2016–2017 just 80,454 people received treatment for alcohol; a further 28,242 received treatment for alcohol alongside another non-opiate substance. This is thought to represent only about 20% of those in need. More worryingly, and unlike the figure for drug treatment, this number has fallen by 12% in the last 3 years.

The hardest hit: Addressing the crisis in alcohol treatment services, which will be launched this month at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm, concludes: “Government – both national and local – needs to recognise the vital role that alcohol treatment plays in addressing the tragic consequences dependency can have on individuals, their families and the wider community. This means both investing smartly and ensuring that services are commissioned with skill, expertise and commitment; that the workforce has the necessary expertise and support to carry out its difficult task; and that training and career pathways are sufficient to maintain talent.”

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of the newly merged alcohol charity, urged those in charge to act now.

“Around 595,000 people in the UK are dependent on alcohol. It’s clear that the government must develop a national alcohol strategy to address the harm they and their families face, and include treatment at its heart to reduce the suffering of the four in every five who currently do not access the services they need. This report shows very clearly what action is needed and we urge policy-makers, practitioners and service providers to join together to implement these recommendations to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are in desperate need of support.”

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