Substance use amongst inpatients on mental health wards: practical guide for mental health services

Guidance for NHS health boards providing inpatient mental health services on responding to substance use on mental health wards. This should be used in conjunction with existing local guidance for responding to substance use incidents on inpatient wards.

7. Ensuring a safe response

To ensure that staff are equipped to respond safely to substance use on the inpatient wards, each hospital should:

  • Ensure all staff are aware of this guidance and any other associated documents, and have the necessary training to respond to instances of substance use, including trauma training.
  • Ensure all staff have a working knowledge of Specified Person provisions under the Mental Health Act legislation and its parameters.
  • Utilise existing ward search policies which clearly describe the circumstances in which searches may be undertaken and how to conduct these safely and lawfully.
  • Have a system in place to train all clinical staff working in inpatient settings in the recognition of opiate overdose and the administration of Naloxone.
  • Have clear processes for escalating concerns and seeking senior medical review where this is indicated.
  • Have a clear procedure for the storage, chain of custody and (where appropriate) destruction of suspicious substances.



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