The role of UK alcohol and drugs nurses in a changing workforce

January 2020 – ongoing, funded by Middlesex University


Aim: To investigate, describe and critically examine the role of alcohol and other drugs (AOD) nurses in the context of recent changes in workforce structures and composition.


Methods: a) use of qualitative interviews to obtain the views of a purposive sample of AOD nurses regarding their career pathways, opportunities for advancement and the factors facilitating or impeding their chosen careers; b) an online survey to gather information regarding the geographic and organisational contexts within which UK AOD nurses work and their perceptions of their roles and career opportunities, c) cross-national comparison of data on UK nurses with data from Australia.


Results: The first stage of the study has been completed. Interviews (n=12) using an open- ended interview schedule, were conducted by zoom/teams with UK AOD nurses. Key themes emerging focused on the growth, advantages and challenges of non-medical prescribing (NMP), and on the impact on AOD nursing of changes in workforce structures and environments. The findings indicate considerable doubts about career opportunities for nurses in AOD services although NMP may offer some limited routes to career advancement. Some long-standing issues around the identity and professional status of AOD nurses persist and current changes within, and external to, AOD nursing have created a ‘liminal space’ within which the nursing role and AOD nurse identity is disrupted and in transition.


Research team: Middlesex University: Betsy Thom and Carmel Clancy; Stirling University: Anne Whittaker.


Contact: Betsy Thom, and Carmel Clancy,