Kyla Thomas, Leonie Roberts, Katherine Williams and Tim Williams, Directors of the Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team (HIT), reflect on their team’s work in 2017-18.
The Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team (HIT) is a team of public health experts, academics, clinicians, service users and other professionals, working together to reduce the harm caused by excessive alcohol and drug use. We are supporting 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 saw a change in leadership of our HIT, with Professor Matthew Hickman stepping down to take on the Head of Population Health Sciences role at the University of Bristol. We were delighted that Dr Kyla Thomas joined us as a Director. Kyla is both a Public Health Consultant at South Gloucestershire Council and Consultant Senior Lecturer at the University of Bristol. This connection between the academic world and services is exactly what the HIT is trying to achieve.
We continue to collaborate with NIHR CLAHRC West on several projects. For example, we are working with them to implement our joint work on the acceptability of new, safer syringes (with ‘low dead space’) among injecting drug users. A knowledge mobilisation fellow in the Bristol Drugs Project is taking this forward and the Economic and Social Research Council has funded materials to help communicate with drug users about switching to these safer needles.
Our joint evaluation of the South Gloucestershire pain review pilot project with CLAHRC West will provide vital insight on service changes to enable quick identification of people who are dependent on prescription opioids, so that they can receive appropriate management. We were pleased that the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) decided to fund a Post-Doctoral Fellowship to take this work forward. The principal investigator is Dr Kyla Thomas.
The ‘understanding substances’ element of the Healthy Schools programmed launched in December 2017. We hope that this will accelerate efforts in our schools to prevent harmful use of substances. We are now working on evaluating this project, to make sure there is good coverage and impact across the city.
With support from Megan Davies, Bristol Health Partners intern, we have reviewed evidence for the introduction of primary care-based alcohol detox for mild and moderate severity drinkers. Work is now underway to evaluate this service change, which will have national implications.
Other ongoing HIT projects include alcohol labelling, rapid access to alcohol detox from acute hospitals, reducing drug use in female street sex workers and an intervention to improve recovery outcomes from use of illicit opioids. The Drug and Alcohol HIT is building a great platform to continue to improve the health of the population over the coming years.