Each day the patients will receive an automated text message to check they are staying sober, giving those who are struggling the opportunity to seek help if they fear they may relapse.
The handsets have been distributed among 120 addicts in the Bolton area in Greater Manchester. Users are unable to make or receive standard calls, with the phones only purpose being to receive the automated message and to respond.
If the patients reply to the text with a positive response stating they are OK they will receive a message of encouragement back. However, those who reply stating they are in danger of drinking will be offered either a phone conversation or counselling with a key worker as soon as possible. In the event that a participant does not reply, a member of the alcohol team will then ring them on their home phone.
Previous research has shown that 80 to 90 per cent of alcoholics relapse within a year, a figure that this scheme is hoping to reduce. Consultant in public health at NHS Bolton, Debra Malone, said: ‘The best way to make sure service users successfully adjust to a life without alcohol is to provide them with ongoing support during this difficult period of adjustment.
‘However, this is not easy to achieve when the client is back in their own home. Normally there is little or no contact between the service user and the service in the periods between set appointments and it is often during these periods that people can experience stress and be tempted to drink again. We hope this project can change that.’
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