Collective Voice Spending Review Briefing

The UK’s leading substance misuse service providers have today warned that successful NHS services for hundreds of thousands of people addicted to alcohol and drugs are likely to be cut by 25% in tomorrow’s Spending Review.

These services are paid for by local authorities but delivered by the NHS and charities – many of which comprise Collective Voice – often working together. These services help thousands of people to recover from addiction each year, keeping levels of HIV infection amongst the lowest in the world, and are judged by the Home Office to be responsible for 30% of the significant reduction in crime since 2001.

The Prime Minister recognised the value of drug treatment as recently as December 2012, saying “We have a policy which actually is working in Britain. Drug use is coming down, the emphasis on treatment is absolutely right, and we need to continue with that to make sure we can really make a difference.”

However, despite their success, these services are vulnerable solely because the Government changed responsibility for their funding in 2013 from the NHS, which is to be protected in the spending review, to local authorities, which are not. A 25% cut would result in almost £100 million being taken out of directly delivered NHS frontline services each year.

This reduction is likely to have negative consequences on the following government priorities:

Reducing welfare dependency

The 2015 Conservative manifesto committed to “review how best to support those suffering long-term yet treatable conditions, such as drug or alcohol addiction, or obesity, back into work. People who might benefit from treatment should get the medical help they need so they can return to work.”

The Black Review which the Prime Minister set up to deliver this pledge is due to report in January. It is difficult to see how its recommendations could be delivered if treatment availability is significantly reduced.

Crime Policing and Prisons

The Home Office estimates 45% of acquisitive crime is attributable to drug misuse. Drug misusers in treatment are half as likely to commit offences as those outside. Reducing access to treatment is likely to result in more crime causing harm to victims and increasing the pressure on the thinly stretched police service and an already overcrowded prison system.


Currently only one person in six who needs alcohol treatment can access it. To further reduce access will quickly rebound on other NHS services. 35% of A&E attendances are alcohol related, problem drinkers visit their GP twice as often as all other patients, and alcohol-related admissions have doubled over the past ten years to 1.2 million a year.

However, the real cost of reducing access to treatment will be faced by thepeople who lose their opportunity to recover from addiction and – even more tragically – by a further increase in last year’s record toll of 2000 drug-related deaths.

Download the briefing here.

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