The 1999 Orange Book* acknowledged the role of primary care in the treatment of people with drug problems.  In the early 2000s the National Treatment Agency encouraged primary care to become involved in the treatment of drug users and as a result ‘shared care schemes’ proliferated with up to 40% of GPs in every area being involved at various levels by 2006. Moving forward to today, some shared care schemes remain, and indeed continue to treat the majority of people receiving drug treatment in their areas. However, many schemes have closed or have been dramatically reduced in size and function. The overall reduction in funding to drug and alcohol services is commonly cited as one of the main reasons for the reduction in shared care schemes. However this centralisation of services in drug and alcohol treatment seem to be at odds with wider trends in health and social care; an increased emphasis on reducing health inequalities and meeting the needs of inclusion health groups (which include those with drug and alcohol dependence) is focusing increasingly on ‘place based’ commissioning  approaches by ‘drawing on the assets and organisations in any one place’. And the NHS’s commitment to universal personalised care is putting primary care at the centre of a range of services focusing on asset-based approaches, including social prescribing, which can offer benefits for people with drug and alcohol problems.

We believe shared care offers a number of benefits to drug treatment systems including: improving accessibility, normalising drug treatment and reducing stigma, treating co-morbidities, improved access to personalised care and social prescribing. We believe it is time to re-emphasise the important role of primary care based drug treatment and would like to hold an online meeting with primary care based practitioners to look at the way forward.

If you are interested in attending please complete this form.

  • Department of Health (1999) Drug misuse and dependence: UK guidelines on clinical management