Addiction psychiatry facing oblivion, royal college warns

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Addiction psychiatry could be ‘wiped out in the next ten years’ without urgent action, warns a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych). The number of higher training posts in England has fallen by almost 60 per cent since 2011, says Training in addiction psychiatry: current status and future prospects, with some regions lacking a single trainee.

Professor Julia Sinclair: ‘Addiction psychiatry is in meltdown.’

Last year there were just 16 people in higher training posts that would provide them with an addiction psychiatry qualification in England, says RCPsych, with four out of 12 English regions having no core training posts and five having no higher training posts. Urgent measures are needed to address the falling numbers of doctors training in addictions, the document urges, with rising rates of drug-related deaths and alcohol-related hospital admissions and a growing need for qualified professionals equipped to work with people with complex needs.

Funding is needed to both protect existing training posts and create new ones, says the document, as the issues ‘cannot be solved by the current funding arrangements’. The report has been compiled from interviews as well as documents from Public Health England, NHS England, the ACMD and other bodies.  

The last decade has seen falling numbers of both addiction psychiatry consultants and training places, says the report, creating a negative cycle whereby trainees ‘cannot become specialist and in turn train the next generation’. There is a risk that service users will become used to not having that specialist input, it states, with poorer outcomes and ‘the collective memory of what good looks like’ becoming lost.

‘This report reveals the meltdown that has occurred within addiction psychiatry across the UK, but especially in England,’ said chair of RCPsych’s addition faculty and the report’s co-author, Professor Julia Sinclair. ‘Without urgent investment from government, training in the specialist skills that are an essential part of the treatment system could be wiped out in a decade, depriving thousands of people with this life-threatening condition access to the specialist help they need to recover and rebuild their lives. Assessment and treatment of people with complex medical and social needs arising out of addictions are the essential skills of the addiction psychiatrist. Helping bring people back from the brink of death and turn their lives around are just two of the many reasons why addictions psychiatry is such a vital career.’

Document at www.rcpsych.ac.uk – read it here  

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