Today, the Public Accounts Committee published a report following its inquiry into alcohol treatment services.
The inquiry looked at:
- trends in alcohol consumption and harm from drinking
- how the commissioning and provision of alcohol treatment services have changed since the transfer of responsibility for public health
- spending on, access to, and outcomes from treatment.
Dr Emily Finch, chair of the Addictions Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists said:
“Alcohol harm is a public health crisis. It has been eleven years since the last Alcohol Strategy was published and today’s report makes it abundantly clear we need a new strategy that cuts across multiple sectors including health and criminal justice. It must also be backed by adequate funding.
“Prevention should be at the heart of any new strategy. Strong evidence exists that interventions like minimum unit pricing, alcohol duty, and restricting alcohol availability can reduce alcohol misuse.
“At a system level, Integrated Care Boards should have oversight of the commissioning of services for those with alcohol misuse disorder to ensure that statutory needs assessments are properly funded, integrated and meet local needs.
“Government funded researchers, professional bodies and scientific societies must also actively commission research on addiction as is recommended in the Dame Carol Black review.
“Long-term staff shortages and a disconnect between services mean many patients are not getting the care they need. We highlighted to the committee there has been a 58% fall in the number of trainee funded places for addiction psychiatrists, from 64 in 2011 to a mere 27 in 2019. We are glad to see this has been reflected in the report.
“Whilst growing the substance misuse workforce must be a priority, if patients are to receive the care they need, we must also focus on increasing the wider mental health workforce overall. That is why it is extremely disappointing that the Government still has not published its workforce plan.
“This is an important report that will help drive efforts to tackle alcohol addiction and Government must listen to the recommendations so that more lives are not needlessly lost to alcohol.”