September2 2020 | Page 12

PRESCRIBING THE MOTHER O It’s now almost six months since lockdown revolutionised the way services operate. But could this have actually led to an increase in service user choice? DDN reports ‘I don’t like the phrase “new normal”, but I think what that will be is a blended mix’, Andrew Horne, executive director of We Are With You, Scotland, tells DDN. ‘It’s about giving people much more power over the choices they make. Rather than saying, “Here’s your worker, here’s your one-to-one session, and you travelled 40 miles across the Scottish borders or Cornwall irrespective of what the transport system is like” – now it’s “video me”.’ COVID-19 has had a huge impact on service users’ experience of treatment, not least the all-pervading sense of insecurity in the early days of the pandemic. But, as numerous DDN articles have illustrated over recent months, services were quick to adapt and ensure continuity of provision for their clients in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Initiatives adopted have ranged from preparing food for service users to providing them with smartphones, and one of the most significant changes – as with most other sectors – has been the large-scale shift from face-to-face to online activity. SCRIPTS AND PICK-UPS Inevitably, a key area to be affected has been provision of substitute medication, with many pharmacies – particularly in the early days of lockdown – either closing or operating significantly reduced hours. This meant service users being moved from daily to weekly or fortnightly pick-ups, often with little or no notice. ‘There was a lot of uncertainty in the first couple of weeks, and real concern about continuation of scripts,’ says national service user representative for Change Grow Live, Tony Lee. ‘What my service was able to do was move everybody to a 14-day pick-up, and in the first couple of weeks that did create some anxiety. People were thinking, “Oh my God, will I manage?” But by the time it came to the second pickup two weeks later that seemed to have gone away.’ Feedback has shown that the move away from daily pick-ups has actually improved some people’s relationships with partners and children, he says, and has been particularly welcome for anyone looking after an elderly parent. ‘Now they don’t have to go to a chemist every day with the risk of bringing COVID back into the house. A lot of people have been really, really complimentary about the service taking that chance of giving them a 14-day prescription. It improves choice, it improves flexibility. We’re not getting anything negative on that front at all. I’m a national rep – I speak to people all over the UK – and it’s the same feedback every time.’ His service user council has now taken steps to ensure that no one is moved back to daily supervised consumption without good reason, he states. ‘We demanded some safeguarding measures be put in place, so the person has to go through two processes to be put back on supervised consumption. That’s really helpful because it reassures the client and brings them into that decision, so nothing’s decided without their input. And we’ve created an appeals system where we can respond rapidly to anyone complaining that they’ve been put back on supervised consumption needlessly.’ IN CONTROL We Are With You has found much the same, adds Horne. ‘We moved as many people as we could across to fortnightly pick-up, and the feedback has been very interesting. ‘When we did our service user survey, 70 per cent said they didn’t want to go back to daily pick-up.’ ANDREW HORNE 12 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • SEPTEMBER 2020 WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM