GHP September 2015

ghp September 2015 | 39 health and social care Since 2013, councils have been responsible for the public health of their local populations, which has led NICE to produce local government briefings to help them with this role, with 26 having been published so far. NICE also supports the Local Government Chronicle Public Health Award in order to encourage local coun- cils to seek excellence in the provision of healthcare to their residents. Telford and Wrekin Borough Council won this year’s award for its work with the Telford After Care Team (TACT). Substance misuse is among the key public health priorities at the council and as a result they supported TACT to help people recover from addiction to improve their health, wellbeing and independence. The council used its public health grant to support TACT, and to develop an evidence-based strategy to help reduce the use of drugs and alcohol within the borough. TACT is a community interest company aimed at sup- porting addicts, not just in getting clean, but in moving on and rebuilding their lives. The service was founded in 2012 by Eyres, a former heroin addict, and staffed exclusively by volunteers who are all former addicts. Working together with the council and Clinical Com- missioning Groups (CCG) in the area TACT helps to design the strategy for supporting those with drug and alcohol problems for the next three years. In order to do this effectively TACT consulted service users who they were supporting in order to gauge how services could more effectively meet the needs of addicts. The TACT team’s founder, Rob Eyres, was keen to stress that this form of collaboration between the council and a service user led organisation like TACT was key to the initiative’s success. “We are a service user led organisation and we are partnered with the local health authorities in Telford and Wrekin. By working together for possibly the first time ever we have taken the voice of the people who have been through the system for years and working that experience into the strategies that the local authority abide by. “So this is not about simply working with other groups to educate people, this is the first time we have taken the initiative and with the help and support of the steering groups that we have organised with the council we are getting the information from people who have been stuck in the system for years and using it to make the system better. Telford and Wrekin has a really good outcome-based system which is all because of going back to the grassroots and seeing what needs to be done. “I think that the strategy we had before that was photocopied, like it is in a lot of areas. Every year they would just take the old one and photocopy it and change it a little. We actually sat down and pulled that apart, we ripped it up and made a new one using ser- vice user consultation to reflect what treatment should look like in Telford and Wrekin.” The organisation is not strictly focused on ending a person’s substance abuse, with other issues around this also focused on, such as the prevalence of illness- es such as hepatitis c in addicts, mental health issues which often form the underlying cause of addiction issues and the way addicts are treated at healthcare centres such as hospitals and GP surgeries. They also provide a lot of prevention work in schools, sending former users to discuss alcohol and drug issues at Staffordshire and Stoke University, teaching second year nurses about addiction and how to deal with it. Eyres is keen to emphasise that this approach is vital to reducing the number of addicts. “We aim to turn peer pressure into peer support. For the first time we have got people telling young people not to abuse substances rather than encouraging them to do it.” The centre is immensely popular, attracting as many as 60 people a day seeking support. TACT also offer other support services designed to help addicts rebuild their lives, for example running a weekly wom- en’s group and operating a woman only safe house in the area. There are also fishing, swimming, gardening and art groups all designed to offer a supportive and enjoyable environment and provide service users with the opportunity to develop their lives further than just leaving behind their addiction. Other groups offered by TACT include a health drop in which offer advice on healthy eating; a housing, benefit and debt advice drop in service and a weekly employment group which helps people who are ready to gain employment by offering help with tasks such as writing their CV and cover letter, job searching and providing advice on interview techniques. The organisation has become highly influential, with Eyres now sitting on numerous Clinical Commissioning Groups and board for clinical governance in the area, discussing a variety of public health issue not limited to substance abuse, including improving care in the community and GP services. Every week the service gets feedback from their users and write reports on how local services can improve. Eyres himself will be hosting workshops in November as part of a conference for every CCG in the midlands, highlighting how far reaching the impact of the service has become. Ultimately, Eyres highlights the fundamental impor- tance of the TACT service in improving the quality of the health service by using the experiences of the service users. “It is all about using people’s experiences, getting peo- ple who have had these problems and are now doing well, to say what they feel works best and what doesn’t work. Being listened to is another big thing that means a lot to our users, although we do have to follow guide- lines our service is all about using their experiences and really listening to the people who have had these problems and letting them help to change the system for the better. “I once had someone say to me that you can’t reinvent the wheel. I said ‘No, but sometimes the wheel needs a new tyre’. That’s what we do. The service still works the same but with a different perspective added, like a new tread on a tyre.”