Lack of funding leaves alcohol treatment services ‘in crisis’

4 May 18

Funding cuts have left the alcohol treatment sector in England in “crisis”, a report by a charity has said.

A survey conducted by Alcohol Concern found that only 12% of respondents felt that resources in their area for alcohol treatment were sufficient.

The charity warned that services are due to get worse when ring-fenced public health funding ends in 2020.

Local authorities have the lead responsibility in commissioning substance abuse services. 

The report, which was released at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Alcohol Harm on Tuesday, said that the crisis had been caused by “a vicious cycle of disinvestment, staff depletion and reduced capacity”.

Of the 154 respondents, which included nurses and GPs, 59% felt that aspects of services in their area had worsened in the last three years. 

Respondents reported cuts of between 10% and 58% in funding, since the beginning of 2017.

According to Public Health England estimates, every £1 invested in effective alcohol treatment brings a social return of £3.

Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Concern, said: “Around 595,000 people in the UK are dependent on alcohol.

“It’s clear that the government must develop a national alcohol strategy to address the harm they and their families face, and include treatment at its heart to reduce the suffering of the four in every five who currently do not access the services they need.

“This report shows very clearly what action is needed and we urge policy-makers, practitioners and service providers to join together to implement these recommendations to help the hundreds of thousands of people who are in desperate need of support.”

Alcohol Concern have called on the government to develop a National Alcohol Strategy, carry out a national review of commissioning of alcohol services and to plug the gap in treatment funding.

The report coincides with the roll out of Scotland’s minimum unit alcohol price - the first of its kind anywhere in the world.

Scots will now pay a minimum of 50 pence per unit, a move that Nicola Sturgeon says will help tackle Scotland’s “troubled relationship with alcohol”.

“Given the clear and proven link between consumption and harm, minimum unit pricing is the most effective and efficient way to tackle the cheap, high strength alcohol that causes so much damage to so many families.”

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: “Alcohol misuse costs Scotland £3.6bn each year - that’s £900 for every adult in the country.”

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