New alcohol funding helps people access help at their local GP practice

A new primary care alcohol support service has been launched in Bradford, thanks to funding from the local NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

For the first time, a network of primary care alcohol workers are providing help and support to GP practices in Bradford, for people concerned about their drinking. Currently, the new service is available at over 30 practices but the aim is to extend this to all surgeries in Bradford.

Bradford City CCG and Bradford Districts CCG have invested over £200,000 in the primary care service, for people whose drinking is hazardous or harmful, and an assessment hub, for people who are dependent drinkers.

The funding is part of a new £1.2m package of investment in alcohol services commissioned by the three CCGs in Bradford, Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven. This is a pilot project running over two years which will be evaluated to understand the impact the new services have made.

In Bradford and Airedale 92,000 people drink at hazardous levels, with 17,000 of these at harmful levels. This data shows that alcohol misuse continues to cause a range of problems, especially health problems, locally.

There is an increasing range of practical support and advice on offer across the district to help people with alcohol problems, and new funding from the CCGs is expanding the range of alcohol misuse services on offer.

Lifeline Project, a national charity which provides drug and alcohol misuse support services across the UK will work in GP practices across Bradford City and Districts CCGs to support people with alcohol-related issues. By basing support services in GP surgeries, so that patients can see an alcohol worker without having to go anywhere else, it is hoped that more people will seek help before their drinking becomes a more serious problem.

GPs will offer patients an appointment to see an alcohol worker if, after asking a number of questions about their drinking habits, they feel a patient would benefit from talking to someone about their drinking and getting some support and advice to cut down or stop. Depending on a patient’s needs, up to six sessions with a worker are available.

If a GP thinks there is an immediate need to get more intensive support for a patient, then they can make a fast-track referral to an assessment hub at Lifeline’s Bradford city centre base. Here, patients can receive up to 12 weeks’ support and be offered other treatment options, if needed.

In addition to the primary care service and assessment hub, all three CCGs have commissioned a community detox programme from Lifeline Bradford, which will be launched later this year.

Dr Graham Sanderson, the CCGs’ clinical specialty lead for alcohol, said: “Tackling the harm caused by alcohol is a top priority for us, and we are committed to working with partner agencies to stop the rise in the number of people suffering health and social problems due to alcohol misuse.

“I’m pleased that the new funding from the CCGs is starting to make a real difference where it’s needed most – at primary care level where people can easily access help and advice and take steps to change their lifestyle. The funding is also providing more intensive support for those people who need immediate help for their alcohol problems.”

Matt Birch, operations manager at Lifeline Bradford, said: “The stigma attached to walking into alcohol support centres can deter some people from coming forward and asking for help, so taking the service into GP practices can help make it easier for people to deal with, so they get the help they need at an accessible venue.

“There is a real need for this service, and the funding from the CCGs will increase the number of people we are able to help. These two new services, and the GPs’ involvement in identifying drinking problems in the early stages, are vital to tackling the alcohol problems we have in Bradford.”

For information about the new primary care service, people should contact their GP practice or call Lifeline Bradford on: 01274 735775.

For alcohol treatment, advice and information, people can call: 0845 0508 465 or visit: www.bradfordrecoverysystem.org.uk