Briefing: Substance misuse services

Published: 30 November 2017 Page last updated: 12 May 2022

This briefing looks at the quality and safety of clinics offering residential services for people withdrawing from drugs or alcohol.

Substance misuse services briefing cover image

What we did

In 2016, in response to early inspections under our new comprehensive inspection approach, we wrote to all registered independent sector residential drug and alcohol treatment providers to make them aware of our concerns about the safety of care being provided to people undergoing withdrawal from drugs and/or alcohol. We asked providers to take action to address any issues in their own services.

This briefing presents the concerns identified during our inspections. It also gives an example of good practice, and gives a number of actions and recommendations.

What we found

We looked at 68 residential detox services.

We found multiple concerns.

Many of the clinics were not:

  • assessing the risks to the safety of people prior to their admission
  • following recognised national clinical guidance on treating people who are withdrawing from alcohol or drugs
  • storing, dispensing and handling medicines appropriately
  • carrying out full employment checks or sufficiently training their staff

Nearly three in four providers failed in at least one of the fundamental standards of care that everyone has the right to expect.

Almost two-thirds of providers were not meeting the requirement for providing safe care and treatment.

We have required all of the providers in breach of regulations to improve. Some providers already have improved and we will be re-inspecting the others to ensure that they have done so too. Four of the services are no longer operating following the concerns raised by our inspections.