Innovative ‘HOT Team’ project to address alcohol A&E figures

The number of people being admitted to A&E departments in England is the highest since records began, new figures released today show.

Addaction, a charity that delivers drug and alcohol services across the country, has this month launched a rapid response team in Cornwall to cut the number of people frequently attending the hospital’s A&E department due to alcohol or drugs.

Known as ‘frequent attenders’, this is a group of people who take up a disproportionate amount of time, resources and finances for hospital A&E departments because of their regular attendance due to alcohol or drug use.  Addaction has successfully secured funding of £780,000 from the Government’s Life Chances Fund to set up a Hospital Outreach Team (HOT) Team in Cornwall with a view to rolling it out elsewhere. The Addaction HOT Team is based in the hospital and carries out high intensity work to support this group - which represents about 35% of A&E admissions - to address their needs and reduce attendance.

Lee Derrick, Addaction’s HOT Team leader explains: “If someone is in hospital for alcohol-related reasons and it’s a pattern, one of us will go and see them while they’re in their hospital bed and talk to them about what needs they have and how we can get them met. It doesn’t have to be alcohol-related needs, it means looking at the whole person and the situation they’re in. It could be debt, benefits, GP registration, safe housing, domestic violence - and it might involve a detox and an alcohol recovery plan. The cases are complex and each one requires a different approach.

“One of our team will be with them every step of the way including taking them home from hospital, acting on their behalf to get them registered with other organisations like mental health services, attending appointments with them, and regular home visits. We basically crisis manage someone to get them to a more stable position. Everyone will need a different action plan but we’re consistent and persistent. As a result, they hopefully don’t find themselves back in hospital and this frees up resources for the police, ambulance and hospital free up some resources.”

Figures released today (12.4.18) show that the total number of attendances at A&E across England in March was just over 2million (2,047,000) which is an increase of 1.6% on the same month last year, and emergency admissions reached 526,000, the highest since records began and 3.3% higher than March last year.

Alcohol-related admissions have also risen by 22% in a decade, with the figure now standing at more than 1.1 million in 2015/16, according to data from Public Health England. This is 7% of all hospital admissions - 45% of patients were aged between 55 and 74, with just under two thirds male.

Addaction’s Associate Director James Sainsbury said: “No service in the UK has been able to fully address the issue of frequent attenders before. We’re hopeful this innovative approach will significantly improve the lives of this group of people and give a new way forward for other services across the country.”

Minister for sport and civil society, Tracey Crouch, said: ‘This funding will benefit some of the most vulnerable people in society and provide vital support to help them transform their lives.

'The UK is a world leader in using social impact bonds to make a positive impact in society and these projects will achieve real results in communities across the country.’

The Cornwall project will be launched thanks to the Life Chances grant, which is used to set up a social impact bond that will continue to fund the project. Addaction is also the first substance misuse charity in the UK to run a social impact bond and the Government Outcomes Laboratory (GoLab) based at Oxford University will be monitoring the effectiveness of this project as a funding model for care services.