NHS Funding for  Rehab

Getting government funding for rehab (residential addiction treatment) is very difficult — but with persistence, and over time, it is possible.

The purpose of this web page is to provide addicted people, as well as their friends and families, guidance on how to apply for NHS and/or local authority funding for residential rehab in a private clinic like Castle Craig Hospital.


Step 1: Understanding Your Rights and How the System Works

Step 2: Keep Good Records

Step 3: Get Referred into the System

Step 4: Respect the KeyWorker and Follow their Recommendations

Step 5: Show Commitment Over a Long Period

Step 6: Eventual Assessment for Residential Rehab

free nhs infographic | How to get NHS funding for rehab | Castle Craig Hospital

Step 1: Understanding Your Rights and How the System Works

Navigating a complex process like NHS funding can be confusing and the temptation to just give up in despair is great. In order to avoid this, and maintain a sense of hope, it is useful to understand your rights and how the system works.

The first thing that everyone needs to know is that you have a right to addiction treatment.

The official NHS page on Drug Addiction: Getting Help states: “If you need treatment for drug addiction, you’re entitled to NHS care in the same way as anyone else who has a health problem.”

The problem is that public funding for residential rehab has been systematically cut.

As a result, few people are referred into residential rehab with public funds.

The other problem is that the procedure can be rather time-consuming and many people with an active addiction lack the organisational skills required. Many people end up in residential rehab because of the patience and hard work of their friends and family and this advice is also addressed to them.

How does the public referral system work?

A person with an addiction will typically go to his/her GP and ask for help, or a social worker.

The GP, or social worker, would then refer them to the local addiction team, known as the drug and alcohol team (DAAT); a new case would be opened, an assessment carried out and various community treatments offered. Only after all community treatments have been tried will they consider residential rehab.

Every district and city council in the UK has a team of addiction experts who tend to operate under the council’s social work department, but each council organises its drug and alcohol team in a different way so their structures and practices may differ.

These drug and alcohol teams work in partnership with the NHS.

For example, the drug and alcohol team in the Borders Regional Council area, covering the location where Castle Craig is based, is run by the district council.

It is one of the few councils that have a detailed policy on referring into residential rehab. In the Newcastle area, the drug and alcohol team is run by an NGO (charity) in partnership with the local authority and other agencies.

Local drug and alcohol teams tend to consider residential rehab as a last resort because it has a relatively high short term cost.

However, people with an addiction do have a right to residential rehab and local drug and alcohol teams can offer this option if the person with an addiction proves his/her commitment to getting clean and sober (usually over a long period of time).

But their budgets tend to be very limited for residential rehab.

As mentioned above, each council organises their addiction service in a slightly different way. The first thing that anyone following this path would need to do is research their local council’s addiction treatment service (this can be done online).

Because of these local differences, these guidelines are general in nature and may not apply to each jurisdiction.

Step 2: Keep Good Records

This step is often overlooked as people with addiction are usually less good at keeping records. It is a step that is often best carried out by a friend of the person with an addiction, or a family member.

Keeping a printed/paper copy of every appointment, meeting, assessment, correspondence and relevant document is a useful discipline to set up from the outset.

Here’s why:

  • Decisions about public funding for residential rehab will be taken by a number of different experts. The first thing they will do is examine the individual’s case history and if this includes letters and relevant notes it may help the case.
  • Copies of all activities, such as notes on individual therapy sessions, may be valuable in building up a case. Even handwritten notes of phone calls, logging the time and date of the conversation, could be important.
  • Letters to the various authorities involved could be written on a systematic basis and added to the file. These would help tell the individual’s story.

This step is not essential, or even required by local drug and alcohol teams, but it may prove to be helpful in the longer term.

Step 3: Get Referred into the System

This is a relatively straightforward step and represents the first contact with the local authorities.

The person with an addiction must be referred into the system.

What this means in practice is that the individual with the addiction is referred to a local council addiction expert who will take responsibility for his/her case.

The local addiction experts have different titles in different jurisdictions — key worker, case officer, drugs worker for example. On this webpage, we will refer to them as key workers.

The individual with the addiction can be referred into the system by:

  • Their GP
  • A social worker
  • A hospital or other institution
  • By themselves (this is called “self-referrals” and doesn’t apply in all jurisdictions). This can be particularly useful in cases when the GP is reluctant to offer. To find your local drug and alcohol team follow this link.

Initial referral can take longer than expected as local authorities are often overstretched and getting appointments is not always easy.

Step 4: Respect the Keyworker, follow their Recommendations

This is perhaps the single most important step.

The key worker will open a file, carry out an initial assessment and take into consideration the individual’s drug use history, any criminal activity, their housing situation, their social (benefits) and family situation.

The key worker will then recommend one or more community addiction treatments. These treatments may involve detoxes (coming off the drug or addictive substance in a clinically supervised process) and therapy sessions.

More details about what is available in your area can be found on the website of your local council (search online for the name of your local council plus “addiction services”).

In order for the individual to be considered for residential rehab he/she will need to prove to the key worker the following:

  • That they have respected the recommendations and followed all the suggested treatments.
  • That the individual has shown sustained commitment, discipline and determination to get clean and sober (this is extremely difficult for someone in active addiction).
  • That all locally available addiction treatments have proven to be ineffective — despite the best efforts on the part of the individual with the addiction.

At Castle Craig, we would always recommend that a person in active addiction joins a local Twelve Step group (sometimes referred to as “self-help” groups).

These include Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous and many other types of groups. Details of local Twelve Step groups can be found online.

Twelve Step groups are free and offer structure, fellowship and a way out of active addiction. The Twelve Step methodology is included in the residential rehab offered at Castle Craig.

Step 5: Show Commitment Over a Long Period

As mentioned above, the key worker and any other expert involved in the assessments of the individual with the addiction will be looking for evidence of commitment — to each stage of recommended treatment.

As a general rule, this commitment is measured over a number of years, but this will differ from council to council.

A combination of the following factors will be taken into consideration before residential rehab will be considered:

  • The individual has tried all community-based treatments, including detox, without success.
  • Evidence of a desire to change (and the intention of becoming free of addiction).
  • A proven willingness to get involved in preparatory work (perhaps including detox) before being recommended for residential rehab.
  • A willingness to engage with local services after a period of residential rehab.
  • The key worker considers the individual with an addiction is capable of achieving abstinence.

If the above steps are all taken, the key worker may then apply for funding for residential rehab.

Step 6: Eventual Assessment for Residential Rehab

If all the advice and recommendations are followed the keyworker may apply for funding for an extended period of residential addiction treatment (rehab) at a clinic like Castle Craig.

Primarily because of the lack of funding in councils and local authorities, not every individual is able to get funding for residential rehab.

At Castle Craig, it has been our experience that people referred to treatment by local authorities tend to have been inactive addiction for many years.

A step by step guide to getting NHS funding for drug and alcohol rehab

Further information

To find out more about Castle Craig’s Admissions Procedure please click here

If you would like to talk to our Admissions Team please click here.

To find out more about addiction treatment at Castle Craig please click here

Download and share our “A step by step guide to getting NHS funding for drug and alcohol rehab” infographic and help others get the treatment they need.

Click on the thumbnail above to download our Free Infographic on Getting NHS Funding for Drug and Alcohol Rehab – Courtesy of Castle Craig Hospital.