Arlene Copland

Alcohol Specialist Nurse

She’s one of the nurses responsible for helping to turn the lives around of patients battling alcoholism.

Caring Arlene Copland, aged 47, heads up the new alcohol team at Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust (SWB), where she provides support to those who misuse the substance.

Her work within the much-needed service is not easy, as alcohol abuse in the area costs the NHS around £72 million a year.

Mum-of-one Arlene, who has organised a string of events at the Trust during Alcohol Awareness Week, which started on Monday (Nov 13), explained: “The fact is alcohol is the biggest killer in the country, even higher than drugs. When people drink alcohol excessively, they risk having serious health-related problems, such as cancer, stroke, and high blood pressure.

“The social impact is also significant. People who are addicted to alcohol can risk losing their job, hurting their family emotionally and physically, and they can become homeless as they lose their income. It’s a very serious issue.”

Arlene has worked as an alcohol specialist nurse for the past 15 years, and recently joined SWB.

It can be a challenging role, but helping patients is what drives her.

“I still remember a woman who came to us for help,” added Arlene, “She couldn’t cope with separating from her ex-partner, so she used alcohol to manage her depression.

“When she came to the hospital, we provided her with constant support and referred her to a charity. Now, she has stopped drinking and is volunteering to help people who also suffer with alcohol problems. When she said thank you to me and the team, I felt all the hard work had been worth it.”

She continued: “It’s a challenging but interesting area. People may think it’s just about asking patients to stop drinking, but it is more complicated than that.

“I truly believe that the best care for patients who have a problem is to understand the root cause of their addiction. I have met many who go through some critical moments in their lives, such as bereavement, and that in turn can lead them to using alcohol to help them cope with the pain or depression they are suffering. So it’s important to take time to understand their needs and show them that we are always here for them.

“Our new team works very closely with local charities Swanswell and CGL (Change, Live, and Grow) as well as our Emergency Departments, and Acute Medicine Units, to provide patients clinical and social support, so that they can start taking control of their drinking.”

Arlene is now living in Staffordshire and enjoys meditating and loves cycling to work. When asked who her own hero is, she was quick to name one of her colleagues, Consultant Sally Bradberry.

“Sally is one of the main reasons that I came to work at SWB. She is a national figure who is famously known for her excellent work in alcohol abuse. She also comes across very supportive and passionate. I feel really lucky to be able to work with her in this role.”