Leonie Roberts, Matthew Hickman, Katherine Williams and Tim Williams, Directors of the Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team (HIT), reflect on their team’s work in 2016-17.
The Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team (HIT) is a team of public health experts, academics, doctors and other professionals, working together to reduce the harm caused by excessive alcohol use and substance misuse. We aim to support the development and commissioning of evidence-based services to improve the health of people dependent on drug and alcohol, and reduce drug and alcohol related harm.
This year the team changed its name from the Addictions HIT to the Drug and Alcohol HIT, to better reflect our focus.
The number of Bristol residents using drugs is relatively small, but the impact is considerable. For example, parental drug use was cited as a risk factor in a third of all serious case reviews around child abuse or neglect. In the city region, harm from alcohol misuse does not appear to be improving, with high rates of hospital admissions. We’ve been working on a series of projects to address these challenges.
Our HIT collaborated with NIHR CLAHRC West on a project looking at the acceptability of ‘low dead space’ syringes among people who inject drugs. These low dead space syringes could reduce the chance of spreading infections among people who inject drugs, if syringes are re-used or shared, so are a safer alternative to traditional equipment.
However, it was not known whether people who inject drugs would be willing to switch to this new equipment, so a team of researchers set out to find this out. They found that people who inject drugs support the use of these new, safer syringes. The HIT is now working with CLAHRC West to implement these findings into practice at needle exchanges.
The HIT has also been collaborating with CLAHRC West on a study about reducing drug use in female street sex workers. Based on recent evidence, researchers have developed a plan to improve the results of drug treatment for these women, by organising NHS and voluntary sector services to work together.
This new approach involves creating a stigma-free environment for street sex workers to discuss their work in drug treatment groups, as well as addressing trauma as part of the drug treatment. The study will find out how acceptable the new service is for street sex workers and how practical it is to run. How much it costs in terms of staff time will also be addressed.
Members of the HIT have been heavily involved in shaping Bristol’s alcohol strategy that seeks to create a safe, sensible and harm-free drinking culture, through partnership working and using the best available evidence.
We are now refreshing our work-streams for the year ahead to make the best use of the excellent expertise and enthusiasm in our region.