Public Health England Manuals to assist patients on a route to recovery


The design and creation of a new treatment manual for drug workers to care for patients in prison, working to overcome their drug or solvent addiction.


Alcohol and drugs is one of the five key priority areas for Public Health England’s Health and Wellbeing Directorate; this approach is no less important within the prison system where assisting those clients with dependency issues needs sensitive and urgent care. Our work with the health authorities was to design and create an easy-to use manual for the case workers to move freely within the prison system.

Wild Dog Design consistently went the extra mile to understand and create exactly what was required. The manual has not only worked in the UK for its intended audience, but it has been so successful that it has now been taken up by overseas teams in China and America. Wild Dog deliver success and outcomes; they are genuinely passionate about what they do and great fun to work with.
Kieran Lynch, Criminal Justice Programme Manager Public Health England

This was a very unique audience with their own very unique challenges. Understanding how our audience needed to use the manual was absolutely crucial; thereby our research and analysis took us to work collaboratively with the drug case workers themselves, learning what unique challenges they faced.

We wanted to completely understand what the dynamics and layout would be for the drug worker and client, and spent time meeting with relevant parties within a Category B prison.

In terms of the manual itself, a number of key requirements were identified:

  • Ease of transportation. Previous manuals had been cumbersome and difficult to carry around. Whatever we created needed to be easily transportable and suitable for use wherever they were (often in large open areas without tables or chairs).
  • Engaging and user-friendly content. Previous manuals had involved endless form-filling and as a result lacked engagement. The content needed to be collaborative, non-threatening and engaging for a hard-to-reach audience.

Our approach:

As ease of use was key, we focused on developing a folder which was easy to carry around and contained everything they needed in one place, rather than having several, heavy and cumbersome documents to carry around. The title Routes to Recovery suggested positive outcomes, via a variable number of actions. Thereby setting the tone of the document that there were options, not a right and wrong way; underlying that the client would be empowered and encouraged to see a route to recovery that worked for them.

The content was also highly engaging, designed to be completed together and as part of a conversation, rather than just forms. It was also far more visual, making the content easier to follow and more logical in its structure: having a clear ‘flow’ through the manual.


The principle of mind mapping was adopted as a means of communicating concepts and how to address issues, both physical and emotional for the clients.

The final design layout was highly illustrative, using a bright, friendly colour palette derived from the existing corporate guidelines. Inside the back folder were optional laminated copies of the work sheets enabling clients and worker to map out ideas and thoughts first, before transferring them over to the master documents; coupled with explanatory sheets that outlined in simple graphical terms causes, effects and consequences of decisions and actions taken.


The project has been extremely successful, resulting in multiple reprints and use across the world in both USA and China, and a new commission to develop an equivalent training manual for ex-prisoners once they had been released.