United Kingdom Country Drug Report 2019

Quality assurance

The current drug strategies in the United Kingdom place an emphasis on evidence-based interventions, achieving outcomes and continuing development of best practice. The UK 2017 Drug Strategy emphasises the government’s commitment to grounding its approach in the latest available evidence, the use of which is central to reducing demand, building recovery and global action.

Various organisations are involved in the promotion of best practice and the quality assurance of services, including the devolved administrations, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Care Quality Commission (CQC). NICE has produced a range of guidelines, technical appraisals and pathways relating to best practice and standards of care in the treatment of substance misuse, aimed at supporting local areas in the delivery of high-standard and evidence-based prevention and treatment services. It has also updated public health guidance on needle and syringe programmes.

In England, the CQC is the independent regulator of health and social care. Its purpose is to monitor, inspect and regulate the services delivered by health and social care providers, including those providing substance misuse treatment. Organisations similar to the CQC exist in Wales (Care Inspectorate Wales and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales), Scotland (Care Inspectorate and Healthcare Improvement Scotland) and Northern Ireland (the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority). From July 2018, CQC inspections of substance misuse services will include a rating (Care Quality Commission, 2014). Previously only some services were rated.

The Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals (FDAP) is the professional body responsible for individual accreditation in the field of substance misuse and dependency for the United Kingdom. FDAP has a National Counsellor Accreditation Certificate scheme, which offers professional certification valid for 3 years for drug and alcohol counsellors who want to provide counselling or psychotherapy to individuals, couples or families.

Front-line workers in the field of substance use may undertake training and achieve qualifications under the Drug and Alcohol National Occupational Standards as part of their development. Higher education institutions in the United Kingdom also offer academic courses that may be completed by those in the field. Substance misuse teaching in medical training covers the clinical, psychological and social effects of substance misuse.

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Methodological note: Analysis of trends is based only on those countries providing sufficient data to describe changes over the period specified. The reader should also be aware that monitoring patterns and trends in a hidden and stigmatised behaviour like drug use is both practically and methodologically challenging. For this reason, multiple sources of data are used for the purposes of analysis in this report. Caution is therefore required in interpretation, in particular when countries are compared on any single measure. Detailed information on methodology and caveats and comments on the limitations in the information set available can be found in the EMCDDA Statistical Bulletin.