England, UK: Substance Abuse Treatment Cut
Funding for treatment for alcohol and other drug use disorders has been slashed across England by 16% in four years
The Independent reports exclusively: Local councils forced to reduce financial support by £105m since Government removed ring-fenced budgets for services in 2012/13, figures show. The data has been obtained by leading addiction firm UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT).
Spending on substance use disorder support services across England has been slashed over the past four years as death and ill-health linked to substance use disorders (SUDs) soars to record levels.
Government funding down, death rates up
Data shows that local councils were compelled to reduce budgets by tens of millions of pounds since 2013. These cuts in SUDs services is creating a “vicious cycle” leaving the needs of seriously vulnerable people unmet, according to experts.
Freedom of Information figures show that the 118 councils that replied are spending a total of £452m on SUDs strategies from public health grants this year, compared with £535m in 2013/14 – a cut of 15.5%.
At the same time, drug-related deaths across England and Wales are at a record high, with figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showing that 3,744 people were fatally poisoned by drugs in 2016 – 70 more than the previous year and the highest number since comparable statistics began in 1993.
Hospitals are seeing more than one million admissions relating to alcohol each year, with a review published by Public Health England late 2016 reporting that alcohol is now the “leading risk factor for ill-health, early mortality and disability” among 15 to 49-year-olds.
Government for Big Alcohol, against the people
The new insights have fuelled growing concern over the Government’s decision to remove ring-fenced budgets for SUDs treatment in 2012, which saw responsibility for public health passed onto local councils, equating to a real terms cut to local authority budgets.
The Local Government Association (LGA), which comprises local authorities in England and Wales, warned that while councils were committed to tackling SUDs and providing people struggling with SUDs with adequate support and treatment, cuts to the public health grant were “seriously undermining” their efforts.
The Government’s cuts to public health budgets are incredibly short-sighted and will hit some of the most vulnerable in our society. Prevention ought to be at the heart of the Government’s health strategy but instead they are reducing services that are there to keep people well and out of hospital,” Julie Cooper MP, the Shadow Health Minister, told The Independent.
Cutting support for drug and alcohol treatments will put increasing pressure on our already overstretched NHS and will just push these problems off into the future.”
A recent report published by the Government’s own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) found that “deepening of socio-economic deprivation” since the financial crisis of 2008 and “lack of access to mainstream mental and physical health services” was driving drug-related deaths.
On the other hand, the UK government tends to the interests of the alcohol industry. In a BMJ investigation in 2014, Jonathan Gornall discovered that the government consultation into introducing a minimum unit price (MUP) for alcohol in England and Wales had been a sham and that politicians ignored the strong health evidence in favour of protecting the interests of industry.