Accessibility Page Navigation
Style sheets must be enabled to view this page as it was intended.
The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

New guide underpins effective medical care for drug and alcohol users

Embargoed until 20 September 2012

New guidance published this week by the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Psychiatrists highlights the need for services to employ teams with the right mix of skills and clinical expertise to support the recovery of people with drug and alcohol problems. 


Delivering quality care for drug and alcohol users: the roles and competencies of doctors provides a clear analysis of the medical competencies involved in working with drug and alcohol users. It is also intended as timely assistance in the transition towards new commissioning arrangements for drug and alcohol services next year.


The guide acknowledges the crucial importance of adequate supervision and clinical governance in providing safe and effective care to service users.  It will help commissioners, employers and others to meet their legal and regulatory requirements and provide a high quality service to all those seeking recovery, including those with more complex needs.  The guide will also help doctors working in the sector to ensure that they are meeting General Medical Council requirements on revalidation.


Doctors supporting drug or alcohol users come from a variety of medical backgrounds (mainly General Practice and Psychiatry) and have varying degrees of specialist competency. The guide identifies three levels of competency that apply across all doctors:


  • generalist – eg: GPs and doctors in emergency departments
  • intermediate – eg: GPs with special clinical interests or extended roles
  • specialist – eg: addiction psychiatrists

The guide maps out how levels of competency relate to service user needs, and to available training and qualifications.  It also draws out broader implications for commissioning drug and alcohol services and will be an important reference for Responsible Officers, who are appointed by healthcare providers to support the process of doctors’ revalidation.


Dr Emily Finch, Clinical Director for Addictions at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and chair of the working group that produced the report, said: “High quality evidence-based medical treatment can be a key part of recovery.  As with any other area of medicine, it must be delivered by doctors with the right competencies to work safely and achieve the best possible outcomes. 


“Doctors with generalist, intermediate and specialist levels of competency in this field all have an important role to play, and this report should help ensure they are all deployed in the right way so that everyone – including the most vulnerable - gets the care they need.”


Dr Linda Harris, Medical Director of RCGP Substance Misuse and Associated Health, welcomed the report, saying: “This guidance builds on the excellent work established across the two Royal Colleges to champion clinical excellence in the treatment of substance misuse disorders. The revised competency framework illustrates how primary care professionals can make a proactive contribution to the recovery of people with drug or alcohol problems, setting out the associated training and support needed to deliver such important extended roles.”

For further information, please contact:
Sarah Nevins
Press & Social Media Officer
Telephone: 020 3701 2543
Claire McLoughlin
Media & Communications Manager 
Telephone: 020 3701 2544
Out of hours contact number: 07860 755896


Make a Donation