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New practice standards for young people’s substance misuse treatment published

29 June 2012

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) has published new practice standards for the care of young people with substance misuse problems. The standards were developed with the support of DrugScope, whose Director of Policy and Membership, Dr Marcus Roberts, sat on the Expert Advisory Panel for the development of the standards, and has contributed to the final publication.

In 2010-2011 the number of under-18s accessing specialist services for drug and alcohol misuse services was 21,955 – a reduction from a peak of 24,053 in 2008/09.The new practice standards are aimed at all staff in contact with young people aged 18 or under (in universal, targeted and specialist services) across health, social care, education, youth justice system, and the voluntary and community sector. Alongside DrugScope, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Centre for Quality Improvement (CCQI) worked in partnership with a range of substance misuse organisations, paediatricians, psychologists and nurses to develop the document.

The standards propose that services invest in the psychosocial development and well-being of young people with substance misuse problems to give them the best chance of a normal life through:

  • engagement of the young person, and their family where possible;
  • skilled initial analysis of the young person’s difficulties, including mental disorders and developmental problems such as learning disability, and life circumstances;
  • engaging local systems so that they work together;
  • co-ordinated, well-led interventions that mobilise the resources of local communities as required, including safeguarding, education, training, mental health and accommodation;
  • active follow-up to detect further episodes of support or intervention;
  • prioritising and delivering the training and support of staff.

In the joint foreword to the publication, Dr Marcus Roberts, DrugScope’s Director of Policy and Membership, highlighted the importance of the shifting policy landscape on young people’s services, noting the specific impacts of the reforms in the Health and Social Care Act and the ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’ White Paper, along with other policy innovations such as elected Police and Crime Commissioners and the Troubled Families Initiative.He wrote:

“It is too early to predict the impact of these policy changes on interventions and services for young people affected by drug and alcohol problems. It is clear, however, that there will be very significant changes in the way services are planned and commissioned in the coming years, during a time when there will be severe budgetary pressures. The commitment to localism may also result in significantly greater divergence in priorities and provision for young people.”

Martin Barnes, Chief Executive of DrugScope, welcomed the publication:
“These practice standards have an important role in supporting the development of procedures, interventions and services that are both efficient and effective. I hope they will become a key reference resource for those working with young people affected by substance misuse problems, and will be used to inform workforce development, strategic planning and development, and delivery of care and treatment.”