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When policy fails try something different integrated practice improve outcomes for dual diagnosis co-occurring service users accessing mental health services

Lois Dugmore (Consultant Nurse in Dual Diagnosis, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Leicester, UK)
Saskia Bauweraerts (Bradgate Mental Health Unit, Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust, Turning Point, Leicester, UK)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 22 February 2021

Issue publication date: 19 May 2021




This paper aims to discuss an initiative developed between, Leicestershire Partnership National Health Service Trust and Turning Point, which is the locally commissioned drug and alcohol service in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The aim was to improve outcomes for clients with dual diagnosis (co-occurring mental health and substance misuse) issues. The purpose of the change in working practice was to engage with local substance misuse agencies more effectively to improve clinical outcomes within this service user group. This was achieved through four interrelated approaches. This comprising providing an integrated service. It included building relationships with substance misuse services, providing specialist dual diagnosis clinics and the introduction of substance misuse workers onto mental health wards and group work specific to substance misuse. The outcomes included easier access to services for service users and greater uptake of service users who were moving onto substance misuse services. This led to a reduction in risk related to prescribing and fewer incidents related to prescribing changes and greater engagement in services. When service users were moving between services better communication led to prescriptions being transferred with no delay and to reduced dropout rates in service. There was improved access to substance misuse services, more referrals and take up of service taking place. There was a greater understanding by staff of co-occurring substance misuse and how to work with this client group. Closer working relationship with substance misuse services and shared skills led to greater confidence in managing this service user group. This demonstrates a cost effective service that can be replicated within similar settings.


In clinical practice, shared treatment has proved challenging in light of different service models (Laker, 2006). Substance misuse works on the premise of change comes from the individual, where recovery models in mental health offer a formalised approach. One of the challenges faced by services has been the inability for mental health services to recruit and services become overstretched (Rimmer, 2018); this gave an opportunity for a new method of working to be considered. This led to the development of a new service model.

These changes were:

• Improving the interface with substance misuse services to improve access to community substance misuse services for mental health clients.

• To provide specialist staff within the dual diagnosis field to provide a clinic jointly with local drug and alcohol services.

• Introduction of substance misuse workers as team members on acute mental health and rehab wards.

• Group Substance Misuse programmes.


Working within an integrated model, yet maintaining separate organisations, by offering joint training and clinics has led to a greater understanding of each organisation’s work and increased engagement within the service user group.The introduction of substance misuse workers to acute and rehab mental health inpatient services encouraged service users to engage at the point of admission and to be referred into locally commissioned substance misuse services prior to the point of discharge. Engagement with staff has demonstrated better engagement with substance service by service users following discharge.For clients able to take leave assessment could take place prior to discharge. This led to an increased uptake in services. Due to no opiate substitution given on discharge decreased risk of prescribed medication overdose at point of discharge and led to increase in returning straight to substance misuse services. This meant that service users received medication quicker and the right dose and on discharge ensured reduced risk. The prescribing of Naloxone at discharge is yet to be assessed, but the risk of an overdose within seven days is well-documented and Naloxone is key in reversing this trend. This change in practice can be replicated in any mental health setting and has increased access to services for those using substances.


Is original no other services have substance workers or joint clinics across the UK. First inpatient unit to welcome patients back post-discharge to attend groups.



Dugmore, L. and Bauweraerts, S. (2021), "When policy fails try something different integrated practice improve outcomes for dual diagnosis co-occurring service users accessing mental health services", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 157-170.



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