Our letter to the Editor of the Guardian regarding the falling number of people in treatment for substance misuse
Last week the Guardian newspaper reported a fall in the number of people who were treated for substance misuse in England. While this fall is a cause of concern for us and our colleagues across the drug and alcohol sector, our committed and caring staff are doing what they can to ensure that as many people as possible are able to access the free help and support they need. This means exploring new ways to deliver services, such as through existing hubs such as GP surgeries and libraries, that have a high footfall and are already at the heart of local communities, and trialling the use of digital tablets that allows people to speak to expert clinicians even when they are tens or even hundreds of miles away.
Despite everyone’s tireless efforts, the cumulative impact of cuts to local authority public health budgets cannot be denied and we owe it to our service users and staff to highlight the possible long-term consequences of this. Our Chief Executive Mark Moody wrote to the Guardian to explain our concerns:
Drug and alcohol treatment numbers both ‘deeply worrying and entirely unsurprising’
A fall in the number of people who were treated for addiction in England last year is both deeply worrying and entirely unsurprising.
Drug and alcohol treatment providers have been faced with unprecedented financial pressures over the last few years. Cuts to local councils’ public health budgets combined with rising employment and treatment costs have led us to a situation where a fall in the numbers of people receiving treatment can only be seen as an utterly predictable outcome of unsustainable pressure.
The situation is perilous but not yet hopeless. Treatment providers such as ourselves do what we can to ameliorate the worst effects and ensure cost-effective access to treatment, from locating services in community hubs such as doctors surgeries and even libraries to using everyday digital technology such as tablets to enable people to remotely access the expert help and support they so desperately need.
However, despite our best efforts and those of others in the sector, we can only do so much when faced with such stark arithmetic. The time for investment is now long overdue, and lives depend on it.