A new report from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has revealed that drug addicts and alcohols are being put at risk of harm, or in some cases death, in rehabilitation clinics. The report found that the majority of clinics fail to meet basic care standards, and that they are breaching regulations by employing untrained staff and prescribing incorrect medication to patients.  It has also highlighted the concerns over the transfer of services to local authorities in 2013, which has led to massive cost cuts from clinics in order to win contracts from councils who have limited funds due to budget cuts.

During the inspection, the level of care of 68 different providers in England were examined, and it was found that 72% of these clinics breached the terms of the Health and Social Care Act but failing to meet basic care requirements. A further 34% were found to be in breach of staffing level regulations, and inspectors reported that untrained staff were administering medication in some units. The CQC has taken action against 12% of the providers it investigated, and four of the services are no longer operating over the concerns that were raised in the report.

There are reports of some providers making a high number of medical errors, including incorrect medication doses and insufficient monitoring of side effects and withdrawal symptoms which can cause potentially fatal side effects. The inspectors added that “Many of our findings stem from a lack of appropriately trained and competent staff to manage and oversee these services. Too often, the services lacked appropriate clinical leadership and clinical governance.”

Professor Colin Drummond, chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists criticised local authorities for the cuts, saying that “Local authorities have cut the amount of funding drastically, and the residential sector has been particularly hard hit because that’s the expensive end. Councils are engaging in competitive tendering, so in order to win contracts, independent providers have had to massively cut their costs. They’re cutting corners. They’re employing fewer qualified and specialised staff.”

“Guidelines aren’t being followed correctly because it’s more expensive to do things properly. Addicts are being exposed to clinical risk of having things like fits, hallucinations and brain damage because the care hasn’t been properly delivered and staff aren’t following guidelines. There’s a risk of fatalities in that situation. Addiction is a mental disorder. We don’t see why people with addiction problems don’t deserve the same quality of care as people with mental health problems.”

Deputy chief inspector of hospitals at the CQC, Dr Paul Lelliott, expressed his deep concerns about the level of care being provided to drug and alcohol addicts in private clinics, saying that “While we have found some services that are providing good care and we are beginning to see improvements, all providers need to review their practice so that we can be assured that they are delivering safe and effective care. Detoxification under clinical supervision is often the first stage of a person’s addiction treatment. It can be a difficult, unpleasant and sometimes risky experience. It is vital that providers get this right to support people’s onward rehabilitation and recovery.

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