Delivering alcohol policy: the role of partnerships

First published: 29/03/2019 | Last updated: May 20th, 2019

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Dr Betsy Thom

Betsy Thom is Professor of Health Policy and head of the Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at Middlesex University. She is a sociologist and has worked in research and teaching on alcohol and drugs since the 1980’s. Her research and publications have covered issues of substance use and gender, the management of alcohol problems in primary care and in community contexts and the development of alcohol policy. A major interest is to encourage collaborative research and teaching approaches in Europe. Current research includes leading a work package on ‘stakeholders in the addictions’ as part of the European project ‘Addictions and Lifestyles in Contemporary Europe’. She is an editor-in –chief of Drugs: education, prevention and policy and plays an active part in the International Association of Addiction Journal Editors.


Delivering alcohol policy: the role of partnerships


Tackling alcohol-related harms crosses agency and professional boundaries, requiring collaboration between health, criminal justice, education and social welfare institutions. Partnership working has become a key mechanism in delivering national policy at local level, although, it has been claimed, the reliance on partnership is based on faith rather than evidence. This paper reports findings from a study of alcohol partnerships across England.  The findings are based on a mix of open discussion interviews with key informants and on semi-structured telephone interviews with 90 professionals with roles in local alcohol partnerships. The study documents the challenges of working within a complex network of interlinked partnerships, some of which have a formal duty of partnership. At a time of extensive reorganisation within health, social care and criminal justice structures, development of a partnership model for policy implementation needs to take account of the tensions between institutional and professional cultures and the possible problems arising from ‘coerced collaboration’. A clearer analysis of which aspects of partnership working provide ‘added value’ is needed.

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