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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Winners of the 2009 RCPsych Psychiatric Team of the Year Award

The Bridge Substance Misuse Service,
Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust


Bridge Substance Mis-use Service

Team statement:

The multidisciplinary team of 21 at The Bridge (Birmingham & Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust), part of Solihull Integrated Addiction Services, treats problem drug and alcohol users in Solihull. 


They offer care-planned biopsychosocial treatment to patients and support carers.  They are also a centre for teaching, training and research.


Team Summary:

Dr Sanju George, consultant at The Bridge, set an ambitious objective for the team - no preventable deaths from overdose for any of the team’s 300 Class A drug-using patients. 


Dr George led the team to comprehensively review the systems and practices to identify where risks of overdose or major health complications could be reduced. 


They jointly worked with other agencies to improve patient safety.  They introduced new initiatives including patient education, in-depth physical health examinations, including ECGs and a phlebotomy service, new treatment pathways, prescribing audits, carers’ clinics run by the consultant and intensive training for staff, patients and carers in overdose management and administration of Naloxone (an opiate antidote to reverse overdose). 


From January 2007 to December 2008 (the period covered by the 2009 RCPsych Psychiatric Team Award), no patient on substitute medication died from overdose and many were identified with potentially serious illnesses, which were treated.  Their initiatives are being replicated across other projects. 


They achieved a major change in culture and practice at very little cost, with almost everything achieved within existing resources.


Their project is unique in including a whole range of interventions, some simple and others ambitious, so that every opportunity is taken to reduce the risk of overdose: from ensuring compliance with existing policies to patient and carer education and involvement.  Their measures span all areas from prevention training, screening and fast tracking through to life-saving emergency treatment to prevent overdose.


Everyone involved – users, carers and staff – enjoy the comfort of knowing that their drug users are safer as a result of the thorough overhaul of systems and the introduction of new preventative measures across all agencies.


Dr George and the team were also recognised when they won four national awards, including a prize of £10,000 to expand their Naloxone project.

Want to know more?

If you would like to find out more about The Bridge Substance Mis-use Service, or want to contact the team lead, please contact Liz Cowan.