Have they listened?
19 days ago the Office of National Statistics published the latest figures on the number of people whose death was linked to drug use, they stated “the number of deaths registered from drug use in 2018 was the highest since our record began in 1993. We have also seen the biggest year on year percentage increase’’
In the statement accompanying the report the ONS said “we produce these figures to help inform decision makers working towards protecting those at risk of dying from drug poisoning’’
Those ‘decision makers’ have, in the last 19 days, responded to the report. The Royal College of Psychiatrists, Alliance of NHS Substance Misuse Providers, The Centre for Social Justice, members of the ACMD, the Association of Directors of Public Health, academics, treatment and advocacy charities within the sector.
The commentary and analysis has been as varied as we would have expected from a sector that seeks to advocate and protect against the wide range of causes and consequences of drug use. However, there is one common universally held opinion – the cut in funding for treatment has eroded the sector’s ability to deliver a consistent level of service across the country, in line with the evidence base developed over decades.
"This needs funding, and both the cuts in public health funding and the lack of anything about drugs in the NHS Long Term Plan should give us major cause for concern". Jim McManus Association for Directors of Public Health
“The 28% cut in spending in today’s prices on adult drug misuse services in England since 2013/14 has starved services of the money needed to treat people living with this potentially life-ending illness". Royal Collage of Psychiatrists (15th August 2019)
"Government figures show a 27% reduction in spending on drug treatment services for adults since 2015-16. In some places with very high rates of drug-related deaths - such as Blackpool, Hartlepool, Liverpool and North Tyneside - the budget for drug treatment has been cut by more than half". Ian Hamilton and Alex Stevens
Today, the Scottish Government has announced a further £20m funding to help address the crisis in Scotland.
Tomorrow, the Government will announce its spending plans for the next year. The Chancellor’s previous brief in the Home Office should have taught him the importance of an adequately funded treatment sector.
The Government are the ‘ultimate decision makers’ and have to date been completely silent on 4,359 lives lost to drug use in England and Wales in 2018. The Spending Review is an opportunity to demonstrate they have heard what the experts; professional bodies, charities, academics, thinks tanks and government advisors have told them.
There is no indication that they have, but I very much hope to be proven wrong.