AF3 Carry out comprehensive substance misuse assessment


This standard is about assessing the needs of substance misusers with complex requirements and/or those people who require more intensive and/or structured care programmes. It covers assessment that is on-going throughout the contact with the substance misuse service and the wider treatment system. It includes:

- preparing for a comprehensive substance misuse assessment

- assessing possible risks and the individual’s understanding of services available

- assessing the individual’s substance misuse and related problems

Users of this standard will need to ensure that practice reflects up to date information and policies.

Version No 1

Knowledge and Understanding

You will need to know and understand:

  1. the principles of the Children’s Act 1989 and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989
  2. how to obtain information from individuals and other agencies in line with protocols
  3. how to pass information obtained during an assessment to another agency in line with local protocols
  4. how to evaluate requests for assessment according to their priority in line with your organisations criteria
  5. how to involve an individual in the assessment of their needs
  6. how to assess an individual’s understanding of services available and readiness to engage in a treatment programme
  7. how to deal with challenging, abusive, aggressive or chaotic behaviour
  8. how to assess individuals who are intoxicated
  9. who can provide support when there are any problems with the assessment
  10. how to achieve consistency in assessments with other workers in your organisation
  11. the importance of adhering to locally agreed criteria and documentation when carrying out assessments
  12. how to record the outcomes of assessments and use the assessment to inform the development of a comprehensive care plan
  13. how to review assessments at appropriate intervals once an individual has commenced a programme of care
  14. how to involve adults with parental responsibility in the assessment and referral of children and young people
  15. how to take account of a child or young persons age and maturity when involving them in assessment
  16. the importance of keeping full and accurate records, and how to do so
  17. the principle of confidentiality: what information may be given to whom
  18. how to support individuals to complete documentation
  19. the importance of monitoring the situation regarding an individual’s misuse of substances, and how to do so
  20. how to assess the risk to individuals and to others from their substance misuse and/or co-existent problems
  21. the importance of regularly reviewing risk assessments
  22. the signs and implications of a range of substance misuse related problems including drug use, alcohol use, psychological problems, physical problems, social problems and legal problems
  23. how to deal with other problems including the need for intensive interventions, significant psychiatric and or physical co-morbidity, contact with multiple service providers, pregnancy or children ‘at risk’ and a history of disengagement from substance misuse treatment services
  24. ways of keeping your knowledge about substances and indications of substance misuse up to date
  25. how to understand the jargon used by substance misusers in your locality
  26. sources of information on substance misuse services and treatment interventions
  27. the range of treatment interventions and assessment services available in your locality
  28. the eligibility criteria and protocols for accessing services in your locality
  29. national, local and organisational treatment priorities and resource constraints
  30. how to respond to individuals who do not want to be referred to other services
  31. how to present information in a manner, level and pace appropriate to the individual.

Performance Criteria

You must be able to do the following:

  1. evaluate requests for assessment to determine their priority consistent with your organisation’s criteria
  2. obtain information on the individual from previous assessments carried out by other services in line with protocols
  3. obtain further information if the initial information is insufficient for effective assessment to take place
  4. establish any particular needs of the individual which will need to be taken into account during the assessment from the available information
  5. fully and accurately record arrangements for the assessment in line with the organisation’s procedures
  6. confirm arrangements for the assessment with the individual
  7. explain clearly to the individual any delays between requests for assessment and assessment taking place
  8. give the individual any documentation which needs to be completed by them to allow them to consider it before the assessment
  9. offer appropriate support to individuals who need assistance to complete documentation.
  10. inform the individual of the nature and duration of the assessment, the type of information which will be entered in their records and who will have the right of access to these
  11. conduct the assessment in line with locally agreed criteria and using standardised documentation
  12. involve the individual in the assessment as far as possible according to their capability
  13. review information obtained from previous assessments
  14. collect information from the individual, exploring historical factors as well as presenting factors
  15. assess the individual’s understanding of services available and readiness to engage in a treatment programme
  16. deal with challenging, abusive, aggressive or chaotic behaviour
  17. assess any risk to the individual which may result from substance misuse according to locally agreed protocols
  18. encourage the individual to ask questions, seek advice and express any concerns.
  19. assess the nature of the individual’s substance misuse problems and other problems
  20. seek clear conclusions from the assessment to inform the development of a comprehensive care plan
  21. ensure your assessment takes account of the individual’s needs, any inherent risks and the legal duty of care to the individual and others
  22. keep accurate, legible and complete records of the assessment to inform the development of a care plan and for evaluation purposes
  23. continue assessment at appropriate intervals once the individual has commenced a care plan
  24. provide individuals with accurate and clear information on systems for making complaints about the assessment system and appealing on the decisions
  25. seek support from the appropriate person as soon as possible when there are any problems with the assessment
  26. discuss assessments with other members of the substance misuse service team in order to ensure consistency of approach
  27. ensure your assessment records are in a format and level of detail which can be audited against locally agreed standards
  28. record and report changes made and any effect this might have on the individual within confidentiality agreements and according to legal and organisational requirements.

Additional Information

This National Occupational Standard was developed by Skills for Health. It also appears in the Health and Social Care Standards as HSC340 Carry out comprehensive substance misuse assessment.

This standard links with the following dimension within the NHS Knowledge and Skills Framework (October 2004):

Dimension: HWB2 Assessment and care planning to meet people's health and wellbeing needs

This standard has replaced HSC340.
AF3 Carry out comprehensive substance misuse assessment
Final version approved June 2010 © copyright Skills For Health
For competence management tools visit tools.skillsforhealth.org.uk