Chief Exec Blog - 2018 England and Wales Drug Related Deaths

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15 August 2019

Message to Government – Your Actions Have Consequences

The latest Drug Related Death figures released today show

  • the highest levels ever recorded 
  • an increase of 16% from last year figures 
  • the highest ever year on year increase

Many will be surprised that, when we know now so much about how to protect people, more people are dying of drug related issues than ever before. For those of us working in the sector we know the sad truth of the impact of every one of those deaths on mums and dads, children and siblings, partners and friends.

The ONS reports the number of people whose deaths have involved legal and illegal drugs. It includes death from suicide and accidental overdose and other deaths relating to the use of illegal drugs and the impact long term use has on the body.

Last year I wrote this blog about the facts behind the figures and what we needed to do as a society to prevent people from dying.

The bottom line is that treatment protects people from the most harmful risks of taking drugs. There are a range of (evidenced based clinical and psychosocial) approaches that are delivered effectively every day across the country to many thousands of people.  This protection ensures people feel safe so they can make informed decisions about their health and their futures. The biggest threat to their wellbeing is the continued cuts in funding of substance misuse treatment services.

Sadly there is a lack of care in government (across all departments) about the impact of those decisions. 

Deaths are highest in the north of England – cuts to treatment budgets have been hardest in the north of England 50% in some areas, areas that already experience disproportionate levels of poverty, in areas that health and social care services are on the knees, areas that charities work hard to provide that extra help for people who the state isn’t looking after.

I am sure we will hear today a range of fiercely argued points about political will to test new interventions and arguments for changing the legal status of substances.  All are worthy of discussion and debate. For today though at least I would like our politicians and civil servants to hear loud and clear what happens when you cut funding for vital health services.

And if you don’t want to listen to a charity Chief Executive maybe listen to the Office of National Statistics who produced the figures

"we produce these figures to help inform decision makers working towards protecting those at risk of dying from drug poisoning’’ – ONS

Phoenix Futures is a registered charity in England and Wales (No 284880) and in Scotland (No SCO39008); Company Limited by Guarantee Number 1626869; Registered Provider of Social Housing with Homes England (H3795).