Last week saw the publication of the second part of Professor Dame Carol Black’s Independent Review of Drugs. The report focuses on prevention, treatment and recovery, with the aim of ensuring vulnerable and stigmatised populations with substance misuse issues have access to adequate and appropriate support provision that meets their individual needs.
The report outlines 32 recommendations to the government and other organisations, to improve the effectiveness of drug prevention and treatment, as well as calling for significant investment in recovery services. A new Joint Combating Drugs Unit, bringing together multiple Government departments, has been established in response to the report’s recommendations, with the aim of delivering a more coordinated approach to tackling drug harms.
Of particular relevance to hepatitis C patients, the report states that the NHS has to improve its engagement with drug users who have co-morbidities. The report recognises these people have a greater need for health services, yet find it difficult to navigate complex care pathways, and their experience with mainstream health and care settings often leaves them feeling stigmatised. The report therefore, calls on the health service to prioritise reaching these vulnerable patients to provide screening and treatment. The report suggests several models for consideration, placing emphasis on the role of peer support, and its value for NHS England and NHS Trusts. According to the report, peer mentors have a ‘useful role’ in supporting vulnerable patients who have difficulties engaging with health services, such as getting to NHS appointments.
The Hepatitis C Trust, has long championed the peer model as an essential part of supporting marginalised patient groups to access services. The Hepatitis C Trust’s submission to Professor Dame Carol Black’s consultation highlighted that peers with lived experience of hepatitis C have a key role to play in education around harm reduction and in achieving health and recovery outcomes, by awareness-raising, tackling stigma and influencing care pathways.
Responding to the report, The Hepatitis C Trust’s CEO Rachel Halford said: “We welcome the report and recommendations given by Prof Dame Carol Black, which, if implemented, would significantly improve the drug treatment landscape. It is hugely encouraging to see the report recognise the value of peer support and its role in providing better recovery outcomes for patients. The success of the hepatitis C peer model in improving engagement with testing and treatment among marginalised groups is testament to the positive outcomes peer support can deliver.”