People who use community-based drug treatment services spend a considerable amount of their time in treatment in direct contact with frontline staff. These staff are also fundamental to supporting the implementation of change to meet service user needs. Yet, very little is known about staff perspectives on the process and internal dynamics of drug treatment services, their views about what makes services work effectively, and how services can more effectively adopt to changes in practice.
Conducted across Irish community opiate prescribing services and drawing on data from 12 in-depth qualitative interviews with frontline staff. This paper examines the narratives of staff about the factors which influence the dynamics and process of treatment services, particularly in relation to the implantation of change.
Change itself was described both in respect of how a service responded to immediate service user needs or supported planned change. Little distinction was made in respect of service attributes which facilitated a response in either context. Overwhelmingly, staff contextualised current service effectiveness, historical change, and desired change in how effectively their services met service user needs, which was also viewed as a significant motivation for change. Differences in operational standards across services in terms of practices, policy implementation, job roles, divisions between professional groups, and recruitment and retention of staff inhibited change adoption. Factors which were identified in terms of inhibiting or facilitating planned change were consistent with the wider literature on change implementation but provided unique insights in the context of substance misuse services.
A range of interdependent factors which influence an 'eco-system' of service delivery were identified. Effective policy implementation in Ireland remains aspirational, but findings reported in this paper have important implications for future planning and design of services for people who use drugs, and provide a good basis for further investigation.