“Life-changing” scheme helping people with alcohol addiction shortlisted for national award

Published 15th July 2019

“Life-changing” scheme helping people with alcohol addiction shortlisted for national award

A scheme helping people in Sandwell with severe alcohol addiction while easing the pressure on emergency services has been shortlisted for a top award.

The Blue Light Project works with dependent drinkers who don’t engage with treatment and who are regular users of NHS services or engage in criminal behaviour.

The project, which has saved the emergency services around £150,000, is in the running for a Health and Wellbeing Award from the Royal Society for Public Health.

Blue Light is aimed at working with the most difficult to reach drinkers, getting them support and reducing the number of emergency calls or A&E visits they make.

The project is led by the council’s Public Health team and the substance misuse service provider Cranstoun.  They work with housing and social work teams, alongside the NHS, police, GPs, ambulance and other services, to offer those with complex alcohol problems support.

More than 200 staff across these organisations, including the council, are also trained in how to identify someone who would benefit from the project – which was also shortlisted in the recent MJ awards.

To date, more than 30 drinkers have engaged with the project. Based on just nine individuals who were responsible for costs to the public purse of £244,000 in the 12 months prior to Blue Light, by the end of 12 months that had been reduced to below £93,000. 

Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for Healthy Lives Councillor Farut Shaeen said: “The results of this have been life-changing for many of the people who have engaged with the project.”

“Some of the people we are helping have very complicated needs and histories and often struggle to engage with alcohol treatment or simply don’t want to. 

“We often find that problem drinkers get involved in criminal behaviour or make many 999 calls or A&E visits. This puts pressure on our emergency services.

“Our Blue Light approach is identifying these problem drinkers and working directly with them to get them treatment and reduce their dependency on making emergency calls or being involved in crime.”

Sandwell Council's Director of Public Health Dr Lisa McNally added:  “This is the second national award nomination for the work of our Public Health team on substance misuse. 

“Our Blue Light Project programme coordinates support across a range of agencies for those with severe alcohol-related issues. It has led to many people engaging with services for the first time.” 

“An evaluation has shown that it leads to life-changing improvements for those receiving support,  as well as significant savings in health, care and police resources.”

The winners of the award will be announced by the Royal Society for Public Health in October.