Many workers - not just professionals in the substance misuse field - come into contact with people with drug problems. Whether they are hospital receptionists, youth workers or community support officers, they need the right skills and knowledge to carry out their work.

Skills for Health, the sector skills council for the UK health sector, has been at the forefront of developing drug and alcohol national occupational standards with the help of many partners across the statutory, voluntary and independent sectors, together with government departments, local authorities, professional associations and education and training providers.

There are three principal reasons why employers are paying closer attention to these standards:

  • using national standards based on recognised competencies helps to support new services and workforce redesign;
  • these standards can be used to identify the skills employers need to provide services;
  • education and learning programmes based on these standards help employees' career progression and support recognition of their skills.

Flexible and easy to use

Skills for Health sees the application of these national occupational standards as an important step for employers, employees and service users. Since the standards cover most of the competencies relevant to the drugs and alcohol field, they can be used flexibly to support local services, while adhering to national standards.

Competencies can help employers to:

  • develop job descriptions and person specifications;

  • recruit people with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience;

  • provide targeted induction training to bring new workers quickly up to speed;

  • identify individual and team development needs, and plan to address these.

Employers are finding that using the standards to underpin learning and training is making a big difference. For many organisations, working to agreed standards offers extra reassurance.

To help employers start using the standards, there are lots of free resources available from Skills for Health. In addition to the online competence database and guide, employers can also download information sheets and FAQs.

The standards can be used to underpin the development of locally delivered training and learning to meet the needs of your staff. So why not start today by searching the competencies on the Skills for Health website? Just look for the ones that underpin what your services are trying to achieve.

To find out more, visit the Skills for Health website at and ensure your employees have the right skillsto reduce harm associated with substance misuse.