A review of drug treatment services published today has highlighted the need for urgent action to improve harm reduction services for drug users in treatment. The Healthcare Commission and National Treatment Agency (NTA) review of harm reduction services in England highlights shortfalls in services to reduce harms such as blood-borne viruses and drug-related deaths.
Commenting on today’s report, the chief executive of DrugScope, Martin Barnes, said:
“We welcome today’s report and echo the finding that there have been improvements in many areas of drug treatment.However, some worrying and significant shortfalls in service planning and delivery are highlighted. These shortfalls help explain why, despite increased investment in drug services, there has been an increase in blood-borne virus infection rates among injecting drug users and insufficient progress in reducing drug-related deaths.
“It is unacceptable that we continue to have among the highest rates of drug-related deaths in Europe and are seeing an increase in HIV and other viruses among drug users, particularly young people.
“Although we welcome the commitment by the Department of Health and the NTA to improve harm reduction services, many local drug partnerships are now facing reductions in funding and still trying to meet demanding targets for the numbers entering treatment services.While the focus is usually on reducing drug-related offending, drug services play a vital role in improving the health and well being of tens of thousands of people.”
Key findings in the report that cause concern include:
- Over a quarter (26 per cent) of local drug partnerships did not carry out an assessment of need to inform the commissioning of services (in 2006/07).
- Almost half (48 per cent) of local drug partnerships did not commission residential and inpatient treatment in line with national guidance.
- Over one-third (37 per cent) of partnerships did not have a workforce development strategy. The report describes this as “a severe shortfall in the context of the recent rapid expansion of the sector’s workforce.”
- Nearly a third (32 per cent) of local partnerships did not have a multi-agency plan for reducing drug-related deaths.
- Nearly half (48 per cent) of service users thought that the harm reduction services were not comprehensive enough.
- Over a third (37 per cent) of partnerships did not have access to HIV testing with pre-and post-test counselling.
Notes to editors
For more information and/or interviews, please contact Ruth Goldsmith in the DrugScope press office on 020 7940 7517 (07736 895563 out of hours) or at email@example.com