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Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
Addicts-only surgery launched
Drug addict
The practice will eventually have 500 addicts and their children registered
An innovative GP practice which only offers services to drug addicts and their families has opened its doors in Middlesbrough.

Dr Ian Guy, who runs the new practice, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, is aware of the problems involved in helping drug addicts, but finds treating them so satisfying that, from now on, he will do nothing else.

"I find it tremendously rewarding seeing the change in patients over the first four to five weeks in particular.


I find it tremendously rewarding seeing the change in patients

Dr Ian Guy

"When they first come in they can't look you in the eye, their clothes can be tatty and smelly, but just four or five weeks later after taking the treatment they are different people.

"It is like seeing a miracle every time it happens."

Violence levels

At the moment the practice only has 30 patients in total, but it will soon be extended to 500 addicts and their children.

He said many doctors were worried about taking on drug addict patients because they wrongly assumed they would be more violent and troublesome than other patients.

But he said that because his staff saw the patients on a regular basis it enabled them to build up a rapport that is often not possible in normal practices.

By liasing with only two health care professionals the addicts would be unable to pull any tricks and con extra prescriptions from unsuspecting GPs, he said.

Dr Guy said all the staff would get self-defence classes and personal alarms, but that he did not expect too many problems.

"The impression is that we will get problems with violence, but that is not really a problem once the patients start to recover and emerge from the heroin addiction."

The scheme, which has close links with local addiction services and the health authority, also hopes to cut crime rates by beating the addiction as early as possible.

It has already gone down very well with other local GPs, many of whom will transfer addicts from their lists to the practice, said Dr Guy.

Unregistered drug addicts will also be encouraged to sign up with his practice.

The practice list will also include recently released prisoners who have been weaned off drugs while inside.

Less waiting

Dr Guy said: "It will take pressures off the other practices and will ensure that the addicts are dealt with quickly and not left waiting on lists."

Dr Guy, who is working at the practice with a specially trained nurse practitioner said Middlesbrough had high levels of drug, tranquilliser and alcohol addictions.

He hopes to get a specially trained drug addict counsellor linked to the practice.

Janet James, a divisional manager in addictive behaviour, based in Tees and North East Yorkshire, said the scheme was already proving very popular.

"The difference with this is that it is much more unique and is aiming at providing a full primary care service to drug addicts and their families. That has got to be an asset."

Funding for the scheme has been split between the local Primary Care Group; Health Action Zone, Single Regeneration Budget and the Addictive Behaviours Service.

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See also:

26 Jun 00 | Health
Addicts 'blackmail' GPs
26 Jun 00 | Health
Anti-drug policies 'ineffective'
09 Jun 00 | Health
The nature of addiction
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