The government must “wake up to the reality”
that a national alcohol strategy is needed now, the chief executive
of social care charity Turning Point declared last week.
Victor Adebowale told a London conference that
the excessive consumption of alcohol was a “massive” social and
public health problem, cutting across health, welfare and criminal
He said that the absence of a national
strategy had led to a “highly variable” pattern of treatment
provision across the UK. Access to treatment for people with mental
health problems combined with alcohol misuse was particularly
problematic, he said.
“At one of Turning Point’s services, a lady
with these complex needs applied to 33 residential units without
even getting an assessment before coming to us.”
He added that the alcohol strategy needed to
look at education and prevention, particularly around the UK’s
culture of binge drinking.
Later Paul Hayes, chief executive of the
National Treatment Agency, said his organisation’s role in alcohol
services was still undecided.
He explained that the government was still
debating whether or not the NTA would take responsibility for
alcohol and a decision was likely within the next couple of
The NTA was established in April 2001 to
improve the accessibility, effectiveness and quality of drug
treatment. However, Hayes said that it would be better for the NTA
not to have a role in alcohol treatment than to pretend to do
“We won’t accept an alcohol role if it’s
merely a label, a sticky plaster to get the government off the
hook,” he said. “If it is attributed to the NTA, then it must have
Hayes said the government was committed to
implementing the NHS Plan and introducing an alcohol strategy by
2004. “It’s about how that’s done, not if,” he said, but added that
it was unlikely that the government would invest as heavily in
alcohol treatment as it had done for other drugs.
Adebowale claimed that it was “as obvious as
gravity” that the NTA should be involved in alcohol.
“Alcohol is a drug and the NTA is focused on
treatment, so it makes sense that the NTA should be involved. If
it’s a question of resources, then give it the resources.”