MPs call for funding to help prevent addiction
But borough health chiefs said today that patients should not notice any reduction in services and in fact investment is increasing.
MPs have called for more investment in preventative services, warning that cuts represent a “false economy” in light of spiralling costs at hospitals across England.
It was recently reported that the number of people seeking drug-related mental health services had increased by a third in four years.
The council’s budget for addiction services was cut by seven per cent between 2017-18 and 2018-19, falling from £5.9m to £ 5.5m.
The figures were obtained by a Freedom of Information request by the Labour MP Liam Byrne, who is chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children of Alcoholics.
Mr Byrne said his own father died in 2015 after a long struggle with alcohol addiction.
He said: “Every child of an alcoholic comes to learn the brutal hard way that we can’t change things for our parents – but we can change things for our children. But frankly that’s harder if addiction treatment budgets are being cut left, right and centre.
“It’s simply a false economy. We’re spending money dealing with A&E admissions when we should be trying
to tackle the addiction that lands people in hospital in the first place.”
Referrals to addiction services in Wigan fell between 2016-17 and 2017-18, from 625 to 585.
Of 118 local authorities that responded to Mr Byrne’s request, 80 reported a drop in referrals.
In total, there were 5,061 fewer referrals reported across England in 2017-18 - a drop of seven per cent.
Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change, said this did not mean fewer people were in need.
“The evidence indicates that there are fewer services to refer people to, not fewer people who would benefit from referral,” he said.
“With those in need of help being unable to access specialist support, they instead become frequent attenders at our enormously over-stretched accident and emergency departments.”
Wigan Council said it did not record the figures for referrals and so doesn’t recognise the figures. It records new presentations to the service, the figure being 1,332 in 2016-17 and 1,401 in 2017-18.
Prof Kate Ardern, director for public health, said: “The change in budget doesn’t represent a reduction in service and actually investment has been put in to drug and alcohol services. From April last year we commissioned substance misuse charity, Addaction, to deliver an all age drug and alcohol service across the borough. Moving to one provider and integrating adult and young people’s services is the reason for the reduction in budget.
“This borough wide approach has seen Addaction establish strong links with partner services such as HealthyRoutes and The Brick, which help us to support residents with a range of needs including offering intensive support to high risk, complex individuals and helping them with other circumstances that could affect their recovery.
“The pathway has been operational for a number of years and has significantly reduced the number of people admitted to A&E by enabling staff to identify risks earlier.
“There is also increased investment, such as the Deal for Communities Investment Fund, which supports community initiatives like Greenslate Farm. In addition, we have trained 20 volunteers to date as part of the Communities in Charge of Alcohol programme where volunteers utilise their community knowledge and connections to support individuals to access treatment services. These thorough, bespoke approaches help with people’s long-term recovery.
“We are confident that our service is delivering effective interventions to those who need it most and is in line with the wider Greater Manchester drug and alcohol strategy.
“Wigan borough has a rate of 736 admissions for alcohol-related conditions per 100,000 of the population.
“This is a 16 per cent reduction since 2011/12 and is a much larger reduction than what is seen over the same period both regionally and nationally.
“We will continue to work closely with our partners to provide a successful service with the individual needs of those who access support at its root.”
The FOI figures show there were 335,000 alcohol-related hospital admissions in England last year - 39,000 more than during 2009.
Meanwhile, more than 70 councils cut their addiction services budget last year, while 50 are planning cuts for
Around two thirds of local authorities say they have a strategy in place to support the children of alcoholics, of which Wigan is one.
Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “As I know from my own personal circumstances, alcohol abuse can have a devastating impact on families, especially children.
“Yet rather than expanding specialist treatment services, deep cuts will be imposed on them again.
“This fails some of the most vulnerable in society. Government ministers must reverse these cuts as a matter of urge
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “All children deserve a stable and happy place to call home, and it’s heartbreaking that hundreds of thousands of children growing up with alcohol-addicted parents in this country are robbed of this.
“In December, we committed to funding the National Association for the Children of Alcoholics’ helpline expansion, so that more children in this difficult position have rapid access to support and advice. Robust government action has led to a fall in alcohol consumption in recent years – but we remain committed to tackling alcohol-related harms and protecting the innocent victims of addiction.”