Innovation and Research Unit

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WDP is an evidence-based organisation, and both draws from and contributes to research and best practice.  Continually assessing ‘what works’ for our service users, we collaborate with a range of academic institutions to independently evaluate our programmes, as well as jointly developing and coproducing new projects that bring us to the cutting edge of the sector.  
Led by Innovation Manager Zoe Shuttleworth, WDP’s Innovation Research Unit places service users at the heart of our research, operating within a strict code of ethics and with rigorous quality control  Several of the working group members are also affiliated with the Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research & Care (NIHR CLAHRC).





  Current & Upcoming Projects


Street Drinking Project

Together with London South Bank University, WDP are conducting a joint outreach and research project to street drinkers in the London Borough of Barking & Dagenham. An exciting project commissioned by LBBD Council that unites the frontline with academia, our work over the next 12 months centres on developing the evidence base around the causes of street drinking in the area - exploring the local street-drinking landscape, local provision and methods of intervention in order to reduce the impact of street drinking both on individuals and the wider local community. 




Capital Card™

One of our most exciting projects is the Capital Card™, which is founded on NICE guidelines around contingency management in substance misuse. Putting into action the positive reinforcement of desired behavioural change, the Capital Card™ is a reward card scheme for service users, incentivising client engagement through a simple earn-spend points system. Launched in the London Borough of Hackney and currently rolling out in Barnet and City of London, the Capital Card ™ is already gaining traction and is Public Health-approved. The six-month evaluation will be published late 2017/early 2018, comparing against its own baseline data as well as that of services across several comparative authorities. More information can be found at 


Alcohol Diversion Scheme

In association with the City of London Corporation, City of London Police and London Southbank University, WDP are developing and evaluating an alcohol diversion programme for problematic drinkers across the square mile. Support offered will include enhanced brief interventions (EBI) around alcohol and lifestyle and will evaluate the outcomes for the cohort of those caught driving under the influence of alcohol who accepted EBI in exchange for a reduced fine, against a comparative group who were not offered this opportunity. We are currently negotiating its implementation and evaluation period. 



Assessment & Care Plan Review

Coproduction is a key principle of our practice and, in conjunction with staff and service users, we are currently redesigning our assessment and care plans. Having also consulted with Local Authorities and Public Health England, final versions will be made available in our services in early 2018. 





Care pathways between substance misuse and mental health services 

This project is looking at the pathways of support for substance misuse service users experiencing mental health issues. The project aims to scope the care pathways across WDP City of London and WDP Barnet, engaging WDP staff, service users and staff working in mental health services. In phase 2, qualitative interviews will take place to identify the barriers and facilitators to the pathways.   





GABA-B receptor function in alcohol dependence. A double-blind crossover study of the effects of baclofen and placebo on brain function, as measured by neuroimaging services 

In recent years, several lines of evidence have suggested a significant role of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid Type B (GABA-B) in addiction and treatment; specifically, its involvement in dopamine release. Baclofen, a selective GABA-B agonist, is able to inhibit or increase dopamine release and is becoming widely used to help abstinence in drug and alcohol dependents. This study looks to see the links between GABA-B receptors and addiction, and is being led by Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes and colleagues from Imperial College London. 


H_0.jpgWhat contributes to fatigue with health professionals working in drug and alcohol services?

Caring for others can hurt. When a care giver focuses on another without practising proper self-care, the care-giver can begin to       develop destructive tendencies. The symptoms can include apathy, decrease in pleasure, lack of satisfaction with job, social isolation and substance misuse; overarching ‘Vicarious Traumatisation’ and ‘Burnout’.

Compassion Fatigue is defined as ‘a preoccupation and inability or unwillingness to compassionately engage in others’ suffering'     (Figley 1995, 2002). This study, being carried out by a trainee clinical psychology student, from Lancaster University is looking at the factors and variables that lead to or can predict compassion fatigue in drug and alcohol workers. 




Exploring the emotional experiences of men over 40 in therapy for problematic substance use. An interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) study. 

This study from Regents University London aims to examine the emotional experiences of men over the age of 40 who have used or are using psychological therapies for their substance use. The study is interested in understanding how men experience emotions in therapy and what they mean for the individual. It wishes to inform practitioners working in the field of substance use, of the relevance of men’s experiences of emotions during therapy. 





058 (1).jpgA Mixed Methods Study into Anabolic Androgenic Steroid Use – The voice of the AAS user:

Anabolic Androgenic Steroids (AAS) are often commonly attributed to sports performance enhancement, but are increasingly being used in the general population, due to their promotion of muscle growth, ability to increase protein synthesis and their relative ease of obtaining over the internet. While it is known that AAS use can be detrimental to health and wellbeing, the motivations for using them are wide ranging and less well known.

In this research project, Bournemouth University is seeking to understand the experiences of AAS users. The study will look at how AAS use contributes to mental health and behavioural issues, the barriers AAS users encounter when accessing treatment, the identification of pathways of information sharing the risks associated with using AAS and the practice implications for those working in services offering support to people who use AAS.

The results of this study will help increase the knowledge on why people use AAS and how best to support AAS users who want to, and who are accessing treatment.






Morton, L. (2016) A Case Report of a Concurrent Treatment of Cannabis and Tobacco Use within a Community Substance Misuse Service. Journal of Addiction, Research & Therapy, 7: 279.

Morton, L. & Nanda, M. Capital Card™ Reward Scheme. Earn, Spend, Live: The Future of Client Engagement. Poster presented at: Social Prescribing: from Rhetoric to Reality, Kings Fund Conference; 2017 May 18; London, UK. 

If you are a university and are interested in collaborating or conducting research with us, please contact Zoe Shuttleworth on or 07918 641537