A winning training event and thoughts on workforce issues

Musings on workforce after a recent London training event on Opioid Substitution Treatment and choices. (10.10.17)

SMMGP recently hosted a workshop* in London on the topic of opioid substitution treatment and choices.

The event was chaired by veteran retired GP Dr Chris Ford (now Clinical Director, International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies) and the main speaker was SMMGP’s Dr Steve Brinksman and was fully subscribed with approximately 45 attendees.

We wouldn’t usually write a blog post on what was pretty much a routine training event, however - and as much as we liked the very convenient and central venue  – “We’re going to need a bigger room”.

This was a really stimulating and needed event reflecting how to work within the 2017 Clinical Guidelines. Reading through the many positive evaluation forms, we were particularly struck by the time people took to write lengthy comments, which revealed:

  • Cross-agency networking and discussion with colleagues from across the sector is sorely needed and was much valued on this occasion.
  • The training was welcomed for “reinforcing the principles of treatment” in the context of the current challenging working environment.
  • Worries about working in a climate where funding cuts are affecting quality of care.
  • Participants recorded feeling “overstretched” or having difficulty in coping “on the ground”.
  • Treatment agencies across the board are facing challenging times and there is a real desire to look to each other for support to work together for the common good of the sector.

All those who completed evaluation forms asked for similar training sessions on various topics, bringing people together from across the sector. However, the once popular PANN-London meetings have disappeared, Public Health England can no longer offer support by means of making rooms available (R.I.P. on the battlefield of bureaucracy), training budgets are severely depleted (a participant on the workshop took a day’s leave and paid his own travel expenses in order to attend, fortunately we were able to offer the training for free).

Whilst good work is being done in “pockets”, training and workforce development in the sector is not apparent in any cohesive, national way.

SMMGP was founded more than 20 years ago to support practitioners who realised that they were working with a complex group of people, very much in isolation. We believe that – quite alarmingly - a situation has again developed where people in the sector are feeling isolated in their work. Generalist GPs have drifted away from working with people who use drugs, addiction psychiatrists (whose input is so vital in this work) are all but extinct, volunteers coming up through the ranks need support to develop.

SMMGP with our large and diverse membership made up of GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, non-medical prescribers, drug and alcohol workers, recovery coaches and more, will continue to work with other organisations in the field to uphold standards, quality, and workforce development nationally.

For example we are involved via the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Practitioners in developing a proposal for an apprenticeship in the drug and alcohol sector. For providers who wish to contribute their views to the proposal for standards for a Drug and Alcohol Worker Apprenticeship, please complete this survey from the University of Kent. 

And watch out for more training events from

The team at SMMGP.

*This training event was supported by an educational grant from Martindale Pharmaceuticals Ltd.