Drug deaths not linked to budget cuts, says health boss

Claims that more addicts are dying from drugs because of budget cuts have been dismissed by a health chief.

By Lucy Ashton
Tuesday, 8th October 2019, 12:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 9th October 2019, 3:30 pm
Director of public health Greg Fell
Director of public health Greg Fell

Addiction treatment firm UKAT says Sheffield Council has cut its budget by £1.3 million over six years, when over the same time, drug deaths have risen by 12 per cent.

But Greg Fell, director of public health, has challenged UKAT and says while the budget cuts are correct, frontline services have been protected.

“The notion that the spike in drug related deaths is linked to council cutting treatment budgets has to be challenged on two counts,” he said

“Firstly, our waiting list for substance misuse treatment services is half a day – so essentially people are seen on the day. Nationally it’s about two days to be seen so we are better than that, which is great.

“We go to great lengths to provide access to treatment as evidence says getting into treatment quickly has the biggest impact.

“Secondly, if cuts in treatment services are causing a spike in drug related deaths it doesn’t stand up as other areas have not made cuts and deaths have gone up even more.

“Why does Scotland have record numbers of drug related deaths and Wales is equal to England when they have not cut funding? It simply does not stack up.”

UKAT says rehabs could be forced to closed but Mr Fell has also challenged this. He says drug related deaths have very mixed causes and addicts who started in the 1980s and 90s and are now getting complex health problems.

“I don’t buy that residential rehab is an issue. Rapid access to good quality treatment is key,” he said.

“We work really hard to maintain open access which means anyone wishing to get treatment can walk into services without an appointment and will be assessed on the same day.

“We have three treatment services – one for people using heroin and other opiate based drugs, one for people using any other drugs, and one for people using alcohol.

“There are community based treatment services which are appropriate for the majority of people needing support, however, we also provide a route into residential rehab placement via these services.”

The number of people seeking drug treatment in Sheffield has been broadly stable. Six years ago 2,555 people sought treatment and this rose to 2,635 in 2017.

Free, confidential advice is available from Sheffield Treatment and Recovery Team by calling 0114 305 0500.