Drugs-Quit Help Teams ‘Improving’

Less than a third of dedicated action teams provide a good or excellent service to those trying to quit drugs, the Healthcare Commission has said. The watchdog said drug treatment services across England were getting better, but more needed to be done to tackle a postcode lottery of care. It has produced a report together with The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) to assess performance at a local level.

It examined whether all 149 drug action teams (DATs) prescribe drugs safely and appropriately, and looked at their planning and co-ordination of services. DATs are made up of people from NHS trusts, social services, the police, the probation service, and the voluntary sector.

In all, 23% of DATs were rated as good, 71% as fair, 5% as excellent and 1% as weak.

All 56 mental health trusts and 303 primary care trusts within those DATs were also given a rating. At that level, the South Downs (mental) Health NHS Trust and 13 primary care trusts (4% of the total) were rated as excellent.

Twenty-one mental health trusts (38% of the total) and 73 PCTs (24% of the total) received a score of good, while 34 mental health trusts (61% of the total) and 211 PCTs (70%) of the total were fair. No mental health trusts but six PCTs (2% of the total) were ranked as weak.

Waiting times for treatment have fallen from an average of 9.1 weeks in December 2001 to 2.4 weeks in September 2005, the Commission said.

Its chief executive Anna Walker said: “The number of problem drug users accessing treatment has increased dramatically in recent years, and that is good news.

“However, we now need to focus on improving quality. It is important that service users get the best treatment wherever they are and that they are encouraged to stay in treatment long enough to stabilise their condition.”