Drug and alcohol deaths in Cambridgeshire at their highest level since responsibility for treatment was turned over to councils


- Credit: Czech News Agency/Press Associat

Deaths due to drug and alcohol misuse in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough are at their highest level since responsibility for treatment was turned over to councils, figures reveal.

Meanwhile, local authorities have slashed spending on services to help users and alcoholics.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has warned that "cuts have consequences", and said that tightening public health budgets put vital treatment services at risk.

Last year, 32 deaths due to drug or alcohol misuse were recorded by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough coroner's court.

That's almost twice the number in 2014, when just 18 were reported, the Ministry of Justice figures show.

Across England and Wales, drug and alcohol-related deaths hit a record high of 3,237 in 2018 - almost double the number four years previously.

In 2013-14, the Government transferred responsibility for public health services from the NHS to councils.

Most Read

But subsequent widespread budget cuts have left treatment services at risk, according to the LGA.

In 2017-18, councils in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough spent £8.7 million on substance abuse services - down eight per cent since 2013-14 when adjusted for inflation, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures show.

And the budget is set to fall again this year, with local authorities allocating £8.4 million to tackle drug and alcohol addiction in 2018-19.

However, the number of people in treatment in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has increased, according to Public Health England figures, from 3,545 in 2013-14 to 4,100 last year.

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA's community wellbeing board, said: "Councils are committed to ensuring that people get the right support and treatment, so providing well-funded, targeted and effective substance misuse services is vital.

"However, leaving councils to pick up the bill for treating increasing numbers of users while having fewer resources cannot be an option."

The Department of Health and Social Care said that trends in drug use have remained fairly level, with more adults completing treatment successfully.

Waiting times for local authority run services are consistently low, with patients waiting just two days on average to access treatment.

A DHSC spokesperson said: "Every drug related death is an avoidable tragedy.

"The Home Secretary has appointed Professor Dame Carol Black to lead a major review of drugs, which will look at a wide range of issues including the system of support and enforcement around misuse."