“A decade of dilution” of the role of specialist substance abuse nurses left the board of the body representing them so disillusioned that it decided to resign en masse, its former chair has revealed.
The Association of Nurses in Substance Abuse’s executive committee last month released a statement that all members had decided “with great sadness and regret” that they were resigning.
Former chair Jim Jones this week told Nursing Times the situation had become untenable as members were being “squeezed” by financial pressures on services.
“We had found it increasingly hard to meet,” he said. “Members were not being supported by employers to attend conferences or appear at the executive committee. We were failing to meet the targets that we set ourselves.”
The rise of “drug workers” – who are not regulated but are often paid at a similar level to registered nurses – had led to “nearly a decade of dilution” for the profession, according to Mr Jones. The number of services available has gone up but “nurses’ roles have been taken on by people from other professions”, he said.
He said there were very few substance abuse nurses directly treating patients: “Those that are in the field are in fairly senior positions and under pressure, and they can become isolated. Nurses are doing a lot of supervision of less experienced staff.”
He said a “lack of recognition” and little “exposure” of student nurses to substance misuse nursing had led to a “shortage of nurses with the expertise”.
Current financial pressures were combining with these long term factors to “reduce the quality of services”, he said.
The association - which says it remains financially viable - was formed in 1983 in response from fears from many nurses in the field that they worked in unsupported and isolated situations. An emergency meeting on 8 September has been called to appoint a new board.