Warning on drug services ring-fence

The government has been warned not to stall progress in drug treatment services by removing the ring-fencing from funding.

DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes welcomed figures last week showing the government had met its target to double the number of misusers in treatment two years ahead of schedule.

But he said many professionals feared the government might remove the ring-fence when it announces its plans in next year’s comprehensive spending review.

He said such a move would be consistent with the government’s aim of mainstreaming the funding of services.

But he warned that drug treatment could lose out to other services, just as mental health has done, when local health agencies faced budget problems.

“There’s still a battle to be done in winning hearts and minds about why investment in drug treatment is so important,” he said.

“The investment has in a way been happening by stealth but it’s extremely cost-effective.”

The figures showed that 181,000 people are receiving treatment for drug misuse, more than twice the number in 1998, when the government set its target to double the number from 85,000.

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