Home Health & Wellness NHS Trust Awards Fellowship to Further Addiction Research

NHS Trust Awards Fellowship to Further Addiction Research

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The University of South Wales (USW) has been successful in being awarded a research fellowship from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust.

The £70,714 Senior Research Fellowship award will allow Dr Darren Quelch, a member of USW’s Addictions Research Group, to continue his research with the Trust’s Alcohol Care Team for a year.

Dr Quelch has been working in partnership with the Trust’s Alcohol Care Team, who are widely considered a national leader for the delivery of high-quality care for those living with alcohol-use disorders, evaluating their activities and helping them to promote the important work that they do. Last year, the partnership won a National Institute for Health and Care Research, Clinical Research Network, award in the category of collaboration in research.

This new funding will allow further investigation into alcohol withdrawal, alcohol prescribing practices, and alcohol-related brain damage, an under-recognised condition that is caused by chronic alcohol misuse. 

Dr Quelch said: “Patients presenting with alcohol withdrawal symptoms are traditionally prescribed drugs like diazepam. However, our research is interested in the effectiveness of prescribing small amounts of alcohol (ethanol) to manage withdrawal symptoms, such as agitation, palpitations and tremors.

“We have reviewed the medical records of patients, who have been prescribed alcohol by the Alcohol Care Team, investigating their outcomes and likelihood of hospital admission. Next, we want to work towards running clinical trials randomly assigning patients to be treated with standard alcohol withdrawal medications or alcohol. This will give us a much better insight into the effectiveness and feasibility of using alcohol to manage alcohol withdrawal symptoms in hospital settings.

“We have some initial data that suggests that patients that are treated with alcohol are less likely to be admitted to the hospital. This is important because often patients with alcohol withdrawal are admitted to the hospital for long periods of time, given lots of medications to help them manage their symptoms, and discharged without follow-up and support. The unplanned nature of these hospital admissions means patients often return to drinking alcohol and return to the hospital with worse withdrawal symptoms. This comes at a financial cost to the hospital, but most importantly, it carries worse outcomes for patients.

“The team at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust has developed a model of care that provides support following the discharge of patients presenting with alcohol withdrawal. As such, if we can intervene in that early stage when patients come to the hospital with symptoms of withdrawal, perhaps using small amounts of alcohol, we may be able to demonstrate both short term gains for hospitals and patients, but also better health outcomes for those living with alcohol use disorders, through engagement in support networks and planned detoxification services.

“This research is controversial but it’s vital. There is a lack of existing research into alcohol prescribing but this partnership provides us the opportunity to help a lot of people.”

Professor Sally Bradberry, Alcohol Lead for Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, said: “I previously had the pleasure of working with Darren at SWB when he was a medical student.  His project about alcohol services at SWB was instrumental in the subsequent development of our award-winning Alcohol Care Team.  It is very exciting to be working with Darren again and I am delighted that this fellowship will enable us not only to progress much-needed research in the area of alcohol service delivery but also to further showcase the excellent collaborative work between the SWB Alcohol Care Team and the USW addiction research group.”

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