Campaigners have warned that drug treatment could be sidelined by government plans to review the future of the National Treatment Agency, the Department of Health body responsible for the sector.
Organisations have expressed concerns that plans to devolve the NTA’s regional responsibilities to strategic health authorities and review the future of the NTA’s national office could lead to a loss of momentum in the drive to improve services.
The plans have been put forward by Home Office minister Paul Goggins and DH minister Caroline Flint ahead of the end of the government’s drug strategy in 2008.
While the timeframe for the changes has not been confirmed, the ministers have indicated the regional devolution could be completed by the end of 2008-9.
Richard Kramer, director of policy of charity Turning Point, warned that the devolution of the NTA’s regional responsibilities to strategic health authorities risked “relegating” substance misuse “to the bottom of a list of competing priorities for limited resources”.
He added: “It is essential that the needs of substance misusers are met despite competing pressures.”
Martin Barnes, chief executive of charity DrugScope, also expressed concerns over whether the government would maintain its investment in drug treatment after 2008.
He added: “It would be naive not to be fearful of a return to the bad old days of neglect and short-termist underfunding in drug treatment.”