Public Health England (PHE) has updated its guidance to addiction treatment commissioners and providers in England. The new guidance relates to how the sector has responded to COVID-19 and to many of the changes that have been made in the past 6 months.

PHE now emphasises the importance of re-introducing services that have been scaled back during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include blood-borne virus (BBV) clinics, services offering detoxification and supervised consumption facilities. There is advice in line with general guidance about minimising face-to-face contact, washing hands, wearing a face covering and maintaining social distance wherever possible.

Other notable elements in the updated guidance include the following:

  • Drug tests and breathalysers can be used if appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available
  • Changes to prescribing and dispensing processes that were made during lock-down should now be reviewed and bought back in line with clinical guidelines where possible
  • Harm reduction measures such as needle exchange, naloxone and thiamine should be increased where possible
  • Advice on how to reduce alcohol gradually should be increased
  • Local monitoring and reporting requirements should be minimised to enable services to focus on service delivery

The guidance also covers the ways in which people who use drugs are vulnerable to COVID-19. There is guidance on rough sleeping, creating contingency plans for potential disruptions to medication, managing risk from domestic abuse, managing risk to vulnerable children and adults, working with children and families and working with people who have co-occurring substance use and mental health issues.

There is also information about access to opioid substitution therapy (OST) and provision of long-acting forms of buprenorphine such as Buvidal.

The full guidance can be found here.


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