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Public Health England (PHE) has not yet
‘found its voice’, developed a clear set of
priorities or demonstrated that it is
sufficiently independent of the Department of
Health, according to a report from the Health
Committee. There was now an ‘urgent need’
for PHE to show it could ‘speak truth unto
power’, said committee chair Stephen Dorrell
MP. ‘PHE should not look to the Department
[of Health] or other parts of government to
prompt its research or, still less, to authorise
its findings,’ he stated. ‘PHE can only
succeed if it is clear beyond doubt that its
public statements and policy positions are
not influenced by government policy or
political considerations.’
Public Health
England at
The Local Government Association (LGA) has
called on social media companies to
introduce health warnings about internet
drinking game NekNomination. ‘This is an
utterly reckless and totally irresponsible
craze which has tragically claimed lives,’ said
chair of the organisation’s wellbeing board,
Katie Hall. ‘The LGA is looking for these
corporations to show leadership and not
ignore what is happening on their sites. We
are urging Facebook and Twitter executives to
sit down with us and discuss a way forward
which tackles this issue head on.’
The revised National Occupational
Standards (NOS) for drug and alcohol
workers have now been launched by Skills
for Health. ‘The continued development of
competent practitioners, volunteers,
managers and commissioners in the
substance use sector is crucial for the
delivery of high quality effective services
which meet the needs of the individuals and
communities we serve,’ said FDAP chief
executive Carole Sharma. Revised DANOS at
A youth alcohol summit organised by
Alcohol Concern saw young people call on
policy-makers to see them as ‘part of the
solution to the alcohol problems the country
is facing, not part of the problem’ and
attempt to challenge stereotypical views of
the young as binge drinkers. ‘Young people
are often spoken about in alcohol policy
discussions but rarely asked for their
views,’ said Alcohol Concern policy
programme manager, Tom Smith. ‘It’s time
for this to change.’
Improved support is needed for older people with
drug and alcohol issues, says a new report from
DrugScope. While the focus of policy and media
attention remains young people, there is a
significant and growing problem with older people’s
use of substances, says the charity.
Alcohol-related hospital admissions for men and
women over 65 rose by 136 and 132 per cent
respectively in the eight years to 2010, says
It’s about
time: tackling substance misuse in older people
, while
alcohol-related death rates among over-75s are now at
their highest recorded level.
While the aging population being treated for heroin
problems has become, according to Public Health
England (PHE), one of the ‘key features of drug
treatment in England’, and many of the trends
highlighted in the report ‘partly reflect the health
consequences of long-term drug or alcohol use’, there
are also a significant number of ‘late starters’ using
substances to self-medicate the physical and mental
issues associated with growing old, it stresses. The
physiological changes associated with getting older also
mean that this population group can be at increased risk
of adverse effects from substance misuse, ‘even at
relatively modest levels’.
While there is some effective service provision for
older people, more awareness is needed as a first step to
providing age-appropriate specialist services as well as
better support in primary and social care settings, says
the report. The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs
and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) estimates that the number
of older people needing treatment for substance misuse
will have more than doubled from 2001’s figure by 2020.
Among the report’s recommendations are ‘age-
appropriate, non-time-limited treatment’ for people who
are drug or alcohol-dependent, as well as brief
interventions for people drinking at risk and support for
problems with prescription or over-the-counter
medications. Commissioners also need to recognise the
importance of services for older people and ensure
continued funding, while services themselves should
make sure their services are accessible and relevant to
this client group.
‘Drugs and alcohol issues may affect older people
differently, but that does not make them less real or
important,’ said DrugScope chief executive Marcus
Roberts. ‘They may be a symptom of other problems,
such as loneliness and isolation, caring for a partner,
bereavement or the struggle to make ends meet. The
facts and figures in the report speak for themselves and
with the numbers of older people as a percentage of the
population continuing to rise, this is not an issue that we
can ignore.’
Barriers to accessing support need to be addressed,
he urged, ranging from embarrassment at having to ask
for help to a belief among professionals that ‘older
people can’t change’. ‘It’s time to bring this largely
“invisible” issue into the light and to improve the support
for older people with drug and alcohol issues.’
Report at
4 |
| March 2014
News |
Improved support
needed for older people
More than a third (35 per cent) of
drug and alcohol services reported a
decrease in funding last year,
according to a report from DrugScope,
compared to just a fifth that reported
an increase. More than half also
reported large increases in caseloads.
The funding picture is ‘mixed and
complex’, says
State of the sector
– which is published on behalf
of the Recovery Partnership –
although there are so far ‘no clear
signs’ of widespread disinvestment.
The potential effect of frequent
recommissioning and retendering
was also a concern, however, in
terms of staff morale and disruption
to service provision, while public
health restructuring and changes to
criminal justice commissioning have
also had a ‘significant impact’. Some
services reported a lack of
engagement with police and crime
commissioners and health and
wellbeing boards, although others
said relationships had now been
Almost 170 services from across
the country were surveyed for the
report, with many respondents
highlighting ‘significant’ problems in
offering support around housing,
employment and mental and
physical wellbeing. Almost half,
meanwhile, said they were
employing fewer frontline staff and
six out of ten reported an increase in
the use of volunteers.
‘Public service delivery of all kinds
has undergone a period of significant
transformation in recent years,’ said
DrugScope chief executive Marcus
Roberts. ‘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. There is a concern about
securing access to some of the vital
resources that support recovery,
including housing and employment.
‘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,’
he continued. ‘The priority is to keep
providing support to those who need
it – and many agencies are
developing new partnerships with
and beyond the sector to ensure they
support the ambitions and aims of
people in recovery.’
Report at
See news focus page 6
A third of services report funding decrease