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Building workforce capacity to address substance use in primary health care: preliminary results from a mixed-methods pilot program.

BACKGROUND: Primary health care is critical to the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and other drug-related harms. Scaling-up screening, brief intervention and referral to treatment (SBIRT) within primary health care can reduce the burden of substance-related diseases, and improve downstream healthcare services. Building knowledge, skills and confidence among general practitioners (GPs), particularly in rural, regional and remote areas, to deliver SBIRT is an essential step. Therefore, this study aimed to pilot test a skills-based training program for GPs designed to build capacity for SBIRT delivery.

METHODS: This pilot study investigated the acceptability of a structured, educational skills-based training program among GPs, as well as its preliminary effectiveness in inducing changes in confidence to deliver SBIRT, and in increasing knowledge about low-risk alcohol guidance. The training package was designed by experts in addiction medicine and public health, and involved a series of online webinars and in-person workshops at four locations across the South Eastern NSW Primary Healthcare Network catchment.

RESULTS: A total of 18 GPs registered for the training, with six completing the final webinar. The GPs who completed all sessions demonstrated increases in confidence to deliver SBIRT and alcohol guidance knowledge from baseline. Qualitative feedback found the program acceptable, and GPs were able to successfully implement learnings into practice, and promote to colleagues.

CONCLUSIONS: The results indicated the potential of this program at a national level, but highlighted the need for a range of additional incentives to encourage uptake and ongoing implementation.

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