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Feras for the future as cuts hit services; A decision has been made to scale back the services for people with drug addictions in Tyneside. Health Reporter HELEN RAE explains.

Byline: HELEN RAE

CONCERNS have been raised for the future of drug users following a council's decision to restructure its addiction services.

Newcastle City Council decided earlier this year to reduce its drug addiction support services as part of plans to save pounds 380,000 to cope with the Government's squeeze on public spending.

Under proposals outlined, four of the city's substance abuse centres will be affected which will impact on many drug addicts as well as creating the loss of healthcare and counselling jobs.

It has been announced the Newcastle-branch of the North East Council on Addictions will be axed, Bridge View drug treatment centre will be scaled back and Addaction and Turning Point must compete for re-tendering of their services in the city.

These groups provide a mixture of prescribing, treatment, counselling and day care. The changes will come into force in the New Year, with council chiefs insisting they will improve care for substance abusers.

Rachel Baillie, head of commissioning for the council, said: "It is important that we deliver a drug treatment system that meets the requirements of the National Drug Strategy and it is about helping those with addiction problems to move on to lead a normal life.

"Our objective is to deliver a better system and to get to a positive outcome for those using the drug addiction services.

"If we do not make these changes then we will prevent people who are vulnerable from getting to a positive outcome." There are 14 drug addiction services in Newcastle and pounds 4.5m is spent funding the groups. By reducing the number hundreds of thousands will be saved.

The commissioning decision has been made by the council, Newcastle PCT, Northumbria Police and the probation service.

But unions and organisations affected by the changes say cutting "vital services" will be to the detriment of drug addicts.

Nicki Ramanandi, from the Unison Newcastle city branch, said: "This is yet another clear example of where the Government's cuts have direct human impact for those most in need of support and assistance.

"Cutting vital services is a short-term fix that will have longterm consequences for the individual, the NHS and local authority services as the individual's needs are not met and become more complex."

NECA is fighting against the axing of its service in Newcastle and is set to challenge the decision in the High Court.

Cynthia Atkinson, chief executive of NECA said: "NECA is a leading addictions organisation delivering services throughout the North East.

"NECA has delivered services in Newcastle for over 37 years. The proposed withdrawal of funding by the City of Newcastle is of great concern.

"We are anxious to continue to provide our valuable expert services to our large client base in Newcastle.

"Our services have always been delivered in a professional, timely manner and have exceeded national targets. We would like to assure our clients that at the present time NECA will continue to provide services as normal."

A spokesperson for Bridge View said: "As a public-sector organisation we are constantly looking for opportunities to improve services for patients and work in close partnership with other local organisations.

"We recognise that value for money and streamlining patient pathways to avoid duplication are important considerations to ensure we provide high-quality care for local people."

Addaction and Turning Point said they were unable to comment because they were currently going through the re-tendering process.

REFORMED drug addict Patricia turned her life around after being referred to a support group by social services for help with her heroin and alcohol.

Following an assessment she was offered one-to-one counselling, complementary therapy and support to help Patricia is now pregnant and is due to give birth in December. She is off heroin and alcohol as a result of regular attendance and receiving the appropriate support from NECA Services. She has since secured a tenancy for six months and following this she will be supported by the group to move her and her baby into

her own home.

"NECA has given me help to get my life back on track," she said.

"The organisation has helped me find somewhere stable to live and have helped me with my alcohol and heroin problem.

"The NECA worker from Housing is helping me move into my new accommodation next week. I enjoy the one-to-one counselling and have found them very useful as there is always someone to talk to and give me emotional support and ways to cope with my drinking.

"I enjoy the group work. My experience of NECA has been very positive and if I had not come I would still be drinking and on the streets. " Drug centre facts: * Bridge View is staffed by GPs, nurses and other workers.

700 people use the service and pounds 1.1m funds it annually.

* Addaction is an aftercare and resettlement service for adults returning from prison who have a substance misuse problem. 200 people use the service. pounds 330,000 funds it annually.

* NECA helps addicts. Sixty people use it. pounds 390,000 funds it annually.

CAPTION(S):

AT RISK Drug users in Newcastle could be hit by the planned cutbacks DETERMINED Rachel Baillie
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Oct 29, 2011
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