Evaluation of the move to remote delivery of drug and alcohol services during the COVID-19 pandemic: a study protocol

Nigel Lloyd, Wendy Wills, Suzanne Bartington, Charis Bontoft, Gavin Breslin, Olujoke Fakoya, Imogen Freethy, Jaime Garcia-Iglesias, Neil Howlett, Julia Jones, Katie Newby, Nigel Smeeton, Adam Wagner, Amander Wellings, David Wellsted, Katherine Brown

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Background: Substance misuse is a significant global health concern. In the UK, the prevalence of substance misuse has increased over the past decade and the number of alcohol and drug related deaths are increasing. Individuals with substance dependency issues are entitled to access treatment services. However, the COVID-19 pandemic created significant challenges for public services, including drug and alcohol treatment, and resulted in significant service reconfiguration and a shift from in-person to remote delivery. This study aims to evaluate the delivery of drug and alcohol services in a large metropolitan area in Northern England during the COVID-19 pandemic. It aims to understand the impact of service reconfiguration for services, staff and service users, and to use this understanding to inform the future optimised design of services. Design and methods: The study has five workstreams within a mixed methods framework: (1) Systematic review of literature; (2) Qualitative process evaluation with service providers (digital timelines, focus groups and interviews); (3) Qualitative process evaluation with service users (interviews, focus groups, text based conversations and case studies); (4) Quantitative outcomes and health economic analysis; and (5) Data synthesis and dissemination. Expected Impact of the study for Public Health: The breadth of the study, its novel nature, and the importance of substance misuse as a public health issue, mean that this study will provide valuable findings for those who commission, deliver and use drug and alcohol treatment services nationally and internationally. There will also be important learning for the effective remote delivery of services in sectors beyond drug and alcohol treatment.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Public Health Research
Issue number3
Early online date6 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 30 Sept 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Public Health Intervention Responsive Studies Team (PHIRST) programme (Award ID: NIHR131573 and NIHR133206). This report presents independent research commissioned by the NIHR. The views and opinions expressed by authors in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the National Health Service (NHS), the NIHR, Medical Research Council (MRC), Central Commissioning Facility (CCF), the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC), the PHIRST programme, or the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.


  • addiction
  • COVID-19
  • public health
  • substance misuse
  • treatment services


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