Our Alcohol Assertive Outreach team won Mental Health Team of the Year at the prestigious BMJ Awards in April.
The team offers something different from many addiction services by meeting people in their homes or local communities rather than at clinic appointments.
This innovative approach is helping people who are often admitted to hospital with alcohol addiction to get the care and support they need. We spoke to three members of the team to find out what it’s like to work at the service.
Barney Hyndman, Clinical Team Leader:
We’ve found that a lot of people who are addicted to alcohol and admitted to hospital are not using their local addiction services. With those services, they would need the motivation to attend appointments or group sessions. Instead, we make it easier by going to meet people in their homes or a local café.
They can always turn to us no matter where they are in their journey. Our service works with people for a minimum of a year, even after they have become abstinent or gone to rehab. Even if a client finds it difficult or doesn’t want to stop drinking completely, we advocate for them and help them to access support from their GP, social care and benefits.
The best thing about winning the BMJ Award is that people are acknowledging the need for a service like this. Our service is part of a clinical trial until September, comparing clients seen by this team with clients seen elsewhere.
Tracy Carlin, Project Volunteer:
A few years ago, I was addicted to alcohol. After overcoming the addiction, I wanted to give something back and the opportunity to volunteer came up at the right time. I feel I can relate to the clients and know what they are going through. They know that I know, so they can open up a bit more.
I’ve been here since the service was set up three years ago. I organise breakfast club for our clients every week. It gets them out the house; they can meet in a safe and social environment. When they come to breakfast club for the first time they shake, they’re embarrassed and they won’t talk. After a few weeks they come in, smile and say “Good morning”. We have picnics in the park. We’ve been to Tate Modern. I organise the Christmas parties too and also visit clients, chat with them and take them out for a coffee.
It’s a privilege to talk to the clients and have them to confide in you. It’s a privilege to be able to help and see them change.
Kim Beckles, Assertive Outreach Practitioner:
Our clients lack the motivation to go out. They find it difficult to engage with services. Our approach cuts out the barriers for them to reach the service they need. It’s so rewarding when you see them transform into someone who is more engaged with society, more socially active and attending hospital less.