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Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Workforce Programme

This programme aims to transform the lives of those affected by drug and alcohol misuse by improving the quality and capacity of the drug and alcohol treatment and recovery workforce.


In 2019, Dame Carol Black (DCB) was commissioned by the Home Office and DHSC to undertake a 2-part independent review of drugs to inform the government’s thinking on what more could be done to tackle the harm that drugs cause. 

The second part of the review focused on the drug treatment and recovery system. Its aim was to make sure that vulnerable people with substance misuse problems get the support and treatment they need to recover and turn their lives around. It considered the level of funding required and had a major focus on workforce. The review contains 32 recommendations for change across various government departments and other organisations, to improve the effectiveness of drug prevention and treatment and to help more people recover from dependence. 

The Government invested an additional £80m in drug treatment services in 2021/22. This funding saw the field successfully recruit around 800 additional staff in 9 months. Although the recruitment focused predominantly on drug and alcohol workers and peer workers, this demonstrates that the substance misuse sector can use additional investment to rapidly expand the workforce.

In July 2021, the Government responded to recommendations in part 2 of Dame Carol Black’s review with a 10-year drug strategy: from Harm to Hope and significant new investment, including an additional £532m for drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services from 2022/23 to 2024/25. The new 10-year drug strategy specified that the additional funding should deliver:   

  • 800 more medical, mental health and other professionals   
  • 950 additional drug and alcohol and criminal justice workers   
  • sufficient commissioning and co-ordinator capacity in every local authority (LA)  

 To achieve this, the Government committed to a range of actions to support workforce transformation including: 

  • work to implement a comprehensive strategy to expand the workforce through effective recruitment and retention 
  • work to define and improve the training and skills of all sections of the drug treatment workforce, including registered health professionals, drug and alcohol workers and peer supporters 

Programme delivery

Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID), HEE and NHS England will work closely to engage with a wide range of services and stakeholders to develop the overall transformation programme. The programme will focus on the following organisation types:

  • Local authority drug and alcohol commissioning teams
  • Local authority commissioned adult and young people’s community drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services, residential rehabilitation, and inpatient detoxification services, including NHS and third sector providers
  • Lived experience recovery organisations (LEROs) 
  • Services jointly delivered between NHS and LA to improve care for people with co-occurring mental health needs and drug and alcohol treatment needs 

The programme will also ensure that its outputs, such as the new workforce strategy, reference and align with NHS workforce strategic planning for other key service types such as NHS-commissioned substance misuse teams in secure settings, mental health services and alcohol care teams (ACTs), and locally services are encouraged to plan in partnership with NHS services. This will ensure better integration of services/roles within Integrated Care Systems (ICSs).

Collaboration is encouraged between NHS and LAs to deliver improved care for people with co-occurring mental health needs and drug and alcohol treatment needs.

LAs and NHS partners should collaborate as part of new ICS structures to jointly plan this expansion of workforce and transformation of services. Services will need to work closely together to plan transformation of services for people with co-occurring needs. This investment should ensure that provision is made to support people with their drug and alcohol treatment needs, alongside their mental health needs, rather than expecting people to attend different services with no alignment or integration. 

Drug and Alcohol Workforce Census 2022

Health Education England (HEE) commissioned the NHS Benchmarking Network to conduct a Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Services National Workforce Census, looking at the workforce as of 30 June 2022. This is the first time this information has been gathered on this scale and subsequent reports are planned for later in 2023 and 2024 respectively.

The report analysed data across the following sectors: 

  • LA--commissioned adult and young people’s treatment and recovery providers in the NHS, LA (services directly delivered by the LA), voluntary, NHS and independent/private sectors. 
  • LA commissioning workforce 
  • Lived experience recovery organisations (LEROs) 

This Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Services National Workforce Census report was commissioned as part of the Office of Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) and HEE Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Workforce Transformation Programme in response to the Independent review of drugs by Professor Dame Carol Black, released in 2020 and the commitments made by the Government in From Harm to Hope: A 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives to transform drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services, including increasing workforce numbers and supporting and developing the existing workforce. 

The findings of this report will enable Health Education England to work collaboratively with key strategic partners to inform education and workforce planning and investments for now and in the future. The report and its findings have also informed the, soon to be published, Drugs and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Workforce Strategic Framework and will support the upcoming comprehensive Workforce Strategic Implementation Plan. 

An accessible version of the benchmarking report can be found here.

The benchmarking report as well as an accessible version can also be found in the related documents section of this page.

Stakeholder briefing 

A stakeholder briefing has been shared to inform stakeholders of the programme in detail and will be updated regularly to highlight the latest developments.

The most recent stakeholder briefing can be viewed on: Drug and Alcohol Treatment and Recovery Workforce Briefing - Final 6.9.22.pdf.

Workforce planning guidance

In March, OHID distributed workforce planning guidance. This guidance was developed following extensive sector engagement including focus groups with staff and people with lived experience, one-to-one conversations with 67 staff and volunteers, and a survey completed by 476 frontline staff and volunteers. The resulting workforce planning guidance was intended to support LAs and their delivery partners in 2023/24 SSMTR grant planning.  

The guidance pack provided key actions for LAs and delivery partners to consider in 2023/24 budgets and plans. It was intended to be used alongside the findings of the first ever national workforce census undertaken in 2022.You can access the slides by clicking here. 


If you have any queries, require the briefing in an alternative format or would like to get involved, contact mentalhealth@hee.nhs.uk.