Recently the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published its latest report: Commissioning Impact on Drug Treatment. Here, our Area Manager James Ward explores what this invaluable insight into the perspective of commissioners means for the future of drug and alcohol services.

Recently the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) published its latest report Commissioning Impact on Drug Treatment.

This represents a positive acknowledgement of what frontline drug and alcohol services have lived through in recent times.  Namely that:

  • continued budget cuts negatively impact upon the quality of service
  • that frequent commissioning cycles cause disruption and uncertainty in the system

Whilst this has been written about from the service provider perspectives elsewhere (see the recent blog from our Director Becky Elton, and this blog from Collective Voice), the ACMD report provides a valuable insight in to commissioner’s perspectives on the procurement process. 

What is made clear is that commissioners are equally aware of the damage that frequent re-procurement with financial cuts causes; that these costly exercises cause money to be diverted from frontline service; and that they too feel powerless to change the cycle.

This paints a picture of a damaged system, in which drug-related deaths are increasing, outcomes are jeopardised, and in which both service providers and commissioners feel unable to make a positive change.  Arguably this mirrors the position of many people with addiction who access drug and alcohol services, recognising a need for change but feeling powerless and unable to make that change.

The recommendations made by the ACMD are valuable and a number of our recovery services benefit from being currently commissioned in line with these.

In York, we are working with York City Council on an innovative approach to service commissioning and development, which will hopefully see us contracted for seven years rather than the usual three.

During this extended contract, we are seeking to move the treatment system forward through innovation and co-creation with all stakeholders in recovery services, from people in treatment to organisations like the police and NHS.

We hope to implement changes that can be replicated across the UK, to the benefit of people who have taken the courageous step to address their problematic relationship with drugs or alcohol.

This would undoubtedly not be possible within a standard three year contract.

In Northumberland, Changing Lives work in partnership with Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, enabling the close links for clients with the wider health systems that the ACMD also recommends.

This partnership provides significant advantages to people who use our services, including closer links with mental health services and a multi-disciplinary support team as well as positive relationships with health trainers from the local hospital trust. This provides opportunities for holistic, personalised recovery support that addresses the multiple needs that people experiencing addiction can face.

Funding for this is vital and whilst the recommendation of maintaining investment won’t undo the consequences of budget cuts over the last seven years, the prevention of further financial pressure will stem the ‘race to the bottom’ of current services.

We are looking forward to the government response to the report and hope that the recommendations will be seriously considered by the new Recovery Champion.

Notes: The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs makes recommendations to government on the control of dangerous or otherwise harmful drugs. It is an advisory non-departmental public body, sponsored by the Home Office.