Team shortlisted for prestigious award

Posted: 01/02/21

An NHS mental health team and its partners working with people with drug and alcohol addictions has been shortlisted for a prestigious Health Service Journal (HSJ) Award.

The North of Tyne Addictions Service has been recognised in the HSJ Partnership Awards in the Regional Covid-19 Response Partnership category for their work during the pandemic.

Following one of the most testing periods in the healthcare sector’s history, this year’s awards recognises the most effective collaborations with the NHS.

The North of Tyne Addictions Service is made up of Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW), Turning Point and Changing Lives.

The team have been credited with coming up with creative ways of providing an exemplary service to a vulnerable patient group. They work with people with drug and alcohol addictions, providing structured and evidenced based treatment plans including psychosocial interventions, substitute prescribing, harm reduction services, needle exchange and disposal, recovery coordination and a non-residential rehabilitation programme.

Chrissy Kurek, Clinical Manager at CNTW, said: “Our goal was to ensure that service users continued to receive outstanding care during such a challenging time.

“We had to consider the risks for service users; being isolated could have led to more substance misuse, potential overdose, withdrawal or spread of infection. We face challenges on a daily basis in our line of work and often have to come up with quick solutions. We have had to be adaptable and responsive and this was only made possible by the hard work of the team and the communications between our organisations.

“We are delighted to be shortlisted.”

At the beginning of the pandemic, the team’s service users were placed in the ‘at-risk’ category, meaning the service had to remain open.

During that time, the team worked on a number of initiatives to help those who needed it in a challenging and ever-changing environment. They;

  • Held virtual meetings instead of the usual face-to-face ones. Telephone contact was increased from monthly to weekly and patients who were shielding were contacted twice a week
  • Worked with commissioners and mobile network operators to provide mobile phones to those who didn’t have them
  • Arranged internet access for people who didn’t have it so they could join virtual meetings
  • Delivered medication to service users’ doors including locked boxes to those who needed multiple doses
  • Worked with Fair Share to deliver food parcels and Blyth Star to take hot meals daily to the homeless community and those self-isolating
  • Did regular door knocks to check people were safe, often members of the team were the only faces they saw during that period

In this time they also developed the Northumberland Alcohol Outreach Team, a new initiative who work with people who may be well known to and are frequently discussed by BlueLight, social services, safeguarding, police or hospitals but are not accessing or engaging with treatment. The team’s role is to support people through their recovery journey, which may involve bringing the expertise of other services to support the person. While this was not the role the team was set up for they have supported the wider team by offering additional assistance in ensuring that medications could be delivered.

Chrissy added: “We have worked hard to develop therapeutic relationships with our service users, many of whom were told they needed to self-isolate.

“We’re proud to say some service users are now able to take their medication at home without daily supervision. We also had no staff sickness which is credit to the team’s work ethic and dedication.”

Following feedback, service users have said they felt well supported throughout the pandemic.

Being shortlisted gives the team the thanks they deserve, and ensures that their lifesaving projects are nationally recognised, celebrated and learned from.

CNTW is a leading provider of mental health and disability services. Turning Point is a health and social care organisation that works across mental health, learning disability and substance misuse, working to support individuals to lead more independent lives. Changing Lives is a nationwide charity helping people facing challenging times to make positive change.