July/August 2020 | Page 23

REGULATION HANGING UP THE CLIPBOARD Regular DDN contributor David Finney reflects on 23 years in the sector Working in the drug and alcohol treatment sector is very life affirming. Personally, I am so grateful that my life took the turn it did, bringing me into a field of work where the restoration of broken lives was absolutely the core purpose. So many people said to me those simple words ‘this place saved my life’, and for each one there was a story of past sadness but equally there was a hope and a future. This was made possible by the people working in this field who showed strong personal commitment, often coming from experience. So what have I learned over time? Initially as head of inspection in North Somerset and then as national policy lead for the Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI), I had some great dialogue with representative bodies such as EATA and the Recovery Foundation. People such as Simon Shepherd, Nick Barton, Chip Somers, Noreen Oliver and Deirdre Boyd put their heads above the parapet and challenged perceptions of the treatment sector within government. Collaboratively we developed some good national standards for residential treatment centres, and the high point for me was in 2008 when I proudly announced at UKESAD that treatment services were way ahead of the national average in terms gaining excellent ratings. So I learned that proactive representative bodies and a listening arm of government led to improved standards of care and treatment. One of the major improvements I observed over the years has been the focus on the individual. Initially, I found that in residential services there was a tendency to see the programme as the most important thing, sometimes overseen by some larger-than-life charismatic characters. Not to say that this didn’t work for many people, but subsequently the personalisation agenda led to better-developed individual care planning which I believe accorded people a higher ‘I am so grateful that my life took the turn it did, bringing me into a field of work where the restoration of broken lives was absolutely the core purpose.’ degree of respect and dignity. It also enabled them to go forward with more self-esteem and betterdeveloped personal resilience for the future. Another important development was the integration of services before and after residential treatment. Initially I came across shocking examples of discharge, such as a black plastic bin bag on the doorstep and a train ticket home. I am glad to say that many services now offer great aftercare packages, supported living arrangements, employment and training opportunities and proper integration with community services, all of which means that recovery is far more sustainable. To briefly comment on two important themes – funding and regulation – once the NTA pooled treatment budget was removed local public health bodies became responsible for purchasing services. This meant that competing priorities led to a reduction in statutory funding for treatment, and now that the coronavirus pandemic has struck it seems obvious to say that there will be yet more pressure on these budgets. This means that treatment services will need to be even more persuasive, collaborative and creative in their organisation and bidding if they are to thrive. I took early retirement in 2009 and began a career as a consultant. This was when CQC came into being and the regulation of treatment services moved from the adult social care to the hospitals directorate, with the intention that the treatment element of services would be better regulated. However, the medical aspects of treatment seem to have become the main focus of inspection, with less regard for the psychosocial elements that are crucial in enabling people to make their life-changing decisions. I note that CQC have recently announced that they are revising their inspection methodology again, and in the light of the pandemic have introduced an ‘emergency support framework’ which will inevitably lead to a strong focus on infection control. Treatment services will need to prepare themselves well for the challenge that these two changes represent and maintain an open dialogue with CQC. As I hang up my clipboard and retire, I want to re-emphasise my deep sense of gratitude for the many people who have journeyed with me, those who have both challenged me as a regulator and stood by me as I stepped into the new world of consultancy – special thanks to DDN who helpfully published articles and hosted training courses in which I attempted to keep people updated with CQC changes. Finally, I firmly believe that this is a life-changing area of work, which brings transformation and hopefulness to many. Long may it continue! WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM JULY/AUGUST 2020 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • 23