‘World-class’ substance misuse services hit by restructuring finds DrugScope poll

DrugScope survey of drug and alcohol treatment services highlights burden of recommissioning

England’s drug and alcohol treatment services are world class but burdened by constant rounds of reorganisation, according to a report by DrugScope.

The charity’s State of the Sector 2013 report, based on a survey of 167 community and residential treatment agencies, concluded that the UK “can claim a genuinely world class and arguably world-leading system of drug and alcohol treatment”.

This is despite 35% of agencies reporting a reduction in funding in the past year, compared with 20% who said their budgets had increased, and nearly half reporting a drop in the number of frontline staff in the same period.

However, more than half (57%) said their services had been retendered, recommissioned or renegotiated in the past year and 63% expect to face such a similar experience in the next 12 months. Two thirds, 67%, said the time spent on retendering had been “burdensome”.

Caseloads rose for most services in the 12 months leading up to the survey with 51% reporting higher demand compared to 28% who said caseloads had fallen.

Just over a quarter of agencies (28%) said the rise of new synthetic drugs, such as so-called ‘legal highs’ and mephedrone, were a reason for the change in demand.

The report also found that less than half of drug and alcohol treatment agencies feel engaged with both their local police and crime commissioner and their local health and wellbeing board. 48% of agencies said they had no involvement with their local health and wellbeing boards, while 47% were not engaged with police and crime commissioners.

Few agencies said they had confidence in the way in which substance misuse services were included in joint strategic needs assessments and police and crime plans.

Marcus Roberts, chief executive of DrugScope, said: “Public service delivery of all kinds has undergone a period of significant transformation in recent years.

“It’s clear that organisations delivering drug and alcohol treatment are facing challenges, not only related to funding, but also to engagement with the new structures shaping service delivery on the ground.

“However, responding to the challenges, it is heartening to hear that the agencies which took part in the research are adapting and innovating in the new environment.”

DrugScope did its survey on behalf of the Recovery Partnership, which brings together DrugScope, Recovery Group UK and the Substance Misuse Skills Consortium.

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