DrugScope has responded to the Department of Health’s announcement that the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) is to be abolished as a statutory organisation.
The NTA will cease to exist as an organisation in its own right but its functions will be transferred to a new Public Health Service, which will be directly accountable to the Secretary of State. The Public Health Service will also incorporate the functions of the Health Protection Agency.
The government’s move follows publication of the report of the Department of Health’s Arms Length Bodies Review. The report states that moving the NTA’s critical functions to the Public Health Service would ‘tackle the dependency problems of individuals, and address the entire range of issues which users face.’ The government aims to establish the Public Health Service by April 2012.
DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes said:
“The decision to abolish the NTA as a separate organisation and transfer its functions to the new public health agency is perhaps not surprising given the government’s commitment to reduce the number of health bodies.
“The NTA has overseen an unprecedented expansion in the availability and quality of drug treatment. The progress achieved needs to be preserved and mechanisms and resources put in place to further improve and sustain treatment outcomes and recovery.
“The announcement that the NTA’s functions will be transferred to the new public health agency and not abolished is encouraging – it is vital that drug treatment continues to be championed. The transfer is likely to mean a greater and welcome focus on tackling alcohol related harms and on drugs as a public health issue. But recovery from addiction requires the support and engagement of a range of local agencies, including providers of housing, training and employment, and it is crucial that this partnership approach is reflected across departments within government.
“An effective drug and alcohol treatment system will be a key plank in delivering on many of the government’s policy objectives – better public health and a reduction in drug and alcohol related harms, but also reducing crime, reoffending and introducing alternatives to prison for offenders with drug and alcohol problems.”