‘We’ve been there and it’s hell’ says Shoreditch founder of UK rehab helpline launching scholarship scheme

PUBLISHED: 15:00 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 12:53 16 September 2020

James McInally says 'People call us when they are broken, ill, at their wits' end and just don't know what to do.'  Picture: Which Rehab UK

James McInally says 'People call us when they are broken, ill, at their wits' end and just don't know what to do.' Picture: Which Rehab UK

Which Rehab

A 24-hour addiction helpline service set up in Shoreditch that got swamped with pleas for help during lockdown is launching a national scholarship scheme for health care students struggling to pay rising tuition fees.

Which Rehab's founder James McInally. Picture: Which RehabWhich Rehab's founder James McInally. Picture: Which Rehab

The Which Rehab UK service is paying out £40,000 over the next 10 years to train more health professionals after getting record numbers of calls at the height of the crisis when its telephone counsellors could barely cope.

“We struggled to keep up with a threefold rise in inquiries,” its founder James McInally told the East London Advertiser.

“Addiction services have been heavily scaled back by government cuts to NHS and local authority funding when many services were forced to close.

“This came when people from all walks of life with mental health and addiction problems were reaching crisis point in the pandemic.”

All his telephone counsellors are in recovery themselves and can empathise with callers who may not have the means to pay for private clinics who need advice about how to get free treatment.

“We’ve been where they are and quite frankly it’s hell,” James says.

“People call us who are broken, extremely ill and at their wits’ end and just don’t know what to do.”

James, a recovering alcoholic and a single parent, has launched the scholarship scheme to help support more students study medicine and other health care courses.

“The scholarship is a way for us to give back to the NHS,” he says. “We hope it helps raise the number of students studying in the care professions, particularly those struggling to afford higher or further education.”

The Which Rehab on 0800-170 7000 traditionally had its busy days on Monday and Tuesday, but saw a huge increase every day of the week during lockdown from desperate callers.

“You are already isolated when you are an addict,” James added. “Lockdown made that even worse.”

He launched Which Rehab UK in east London a year ago as a free helpline for all types of addiction advice and is now operating across the country with offices opening in Essex, Birmingham, Cheshire and Glasgow.

The scholarship applications are online for undergraduates and postgraduates studying addiction or relevant healthcare subjects, but not post-doctorate graduates.

Which Rehab UK advice: 0800-170 7000.

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