COVID-19: PHE releases guidance for drug and alcohol treatment services

PHE’s new guidance for commissioners and providers of services for people who use drugs or alcohol makes clear that services do not need to close at the current time as they protect vulnerable people who are at greater risk from coronavirus and help reduce the burden on other healthcare services.

The guidance includes information on:

  • considerations for people using drugs or alcohol
  • symptoms and protection against infection
  • children and families
  • mental health
  • access to OST
  • needle and syringe programmes
  • drug detoxification
  • alcohol harm reduction and detoxification
  • non-medical support

On OST, crucially the guidance states:

“Services should be transferring most, if not all, patients from supervised consumption to take-home doses. Where possible, patients may be provided with up to 2 weeks’ worth of take-home supply, which could be further extended depending on circumstances, but only after discussion with the pharmacy and its supply chains.”

The guidance also includes steps to mitigate the risks created by changes to OST, including the recommendation above:

  • provision of take-home naloxone
  • safe storage boxes, especially if there are children in the home (but bearing in mind that boxes have limited capacity that may not be enough for liquid medicines if take-home doses have been increased)
  • information sharing with children’s social care and other relevant professionals (see guidance list)
  • verbal and written harm reduction advice
  • regular communication between the patient and service, enabled by the provision of mobile phones or credit if needed
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