Drink and Drugs News DDN May 2020 (1) | Page 6

NEWS FOCUS WEATHERING THE While COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the vulnerable, the economy and society as a whole, it is also generating – by necessity – some new and innovative ways of working. DDN reports W ith the UK’s lockdown now in its second month, everyone has had to adjust to the ‘new normal’. However, in much the same way that COVID-19 can be far more damaging to people with weakened immune systems or pre- existing conditions, so it has the potential to cause disproportionate damage to sectors already depleted by year after year of shrinking budgets. Whether the inevitable recession that comes in its wake will lead to greater austerity, or whether renewed respect for health services and – perhaps – a different attitude to society’s most vulnerable might see the drug and alcohol sector get off relatively lightly (DDN, April, page 7) is yet to be seen. In the meantime treatment services, like everyone else, are having to get by as best they can. Substance misuse staff have been designated as key workers eligible for COVID-19 testing if they display symptoms and for school-based care for their children, which means the sector is able to function better than most. Arrangements have also been made to try to ensure people can get their substitute medication, and organisations have also been able to move elements of their support online. GUIDANCE The government published its guidance for treatment services and commissioners on 15 April (see news, page 4) which – alongside instructions to minimise face-to-face contact, scale back hep C testing and defer detoxes – recommends increasing provision of harm reduction measures including naloxone, and encourages services to increase stock held by NSPs and allow people to take more equipment. The guidance also advocates new ways of working, such as by phone or video call, something most organisations were already doing. ‘I do think that the drug and alcohol sector were getting on with it ourselves because of the very nature of what we do,’ director of health, care and wellbeing at the Calico Group, Nicola Crompton-Hill, tells DDN. ‘But I think what the guidance did was offer reassurance. One example was that staff were recognised as key workers. That alone really helped me and the management teams realise we’d be able to manage staffing levels and safeguarding better.’ ‘We were heartened to read the guidance, especially as WDP had already implemented the overwhelming majority of it,’ agrees WDP chair Yasmin Batliwala. ‘The guidance is sensible and comprehensive but will of course need to be updated to suit the ever- changing situation, particularly as lockdown restrictions are eased and we begin the return towards normal service operation – albeit with stringent protection measures in place.’ WDP has moved support to online resources, videoconferencing facilities and phone appointments where it’s considered safe for the service user, although it also continues to safely operate Bath: A volunteer PPE manufacturing initiative set up in a school sports hall during the coronavirus pandemic. Credit: Andrew Lloyd/Alamy 6 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • MAY 2020 ‘The drug and alcohol sector were getting on with it ourselves because of the very nature of what we do... But I think what the guidance did was offer reassurance.’ NICOLA CROMPTON-HILL in-person appointments. ‘Our IT department has also rolled out a large amount of equipment and support in a short space of time, for example a desktop phone system used on tablets to allow staff to make and receive calls using the usual service number,’ she says. It’s possible that one of the long-term impacts of all of this might be a shift towards more online support and counselling generally, although clearly there are areas where this will be far from ideal. ‘We’ve been adapting the model and the programme where we can to offer virtual support and WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM