Drink And Drugs Charity Hits Out At Cutbacks

A row broke out yesterday after a charity warned that alcoholics and drug addicts in North Wales could die waiting for a place on their residential treatment programme.

Officials are scaling back the number of beds commissioned by the NHS at the region’s only purpose-built residential centre for addicts at Wrexham.

The Hafod Wen detox centre is run by the Llandudno-based charity Cais, which said that it treated up to 300 people a year there.

Dr Gwyn Roberts, the chair of Wrexham local health board, and a GP in the town, insisted that investment in substance misuse had increased but was targeted at community based projects which had better results.

Six local health boards reduced the number of beds at the centre from 20 to 16, and plan to cut that further to 13 next month. The waiting list for the programme was now running at 12 months.

Mike Denman, the charity’s strategic planning officer, said that he was aware that in North East Wales five people had died while waiting for a residential programme to deal with their addictions.

“Up to the end of September 126 people in North Wales were waiting for the programme. Some 75% have alcohol problems,” he said.

The charity was in discussions with Wrexham LHB on behalf of the NHS in North Wales to try to retain the existing 16 bed provision out of the 25 at the centre.

But if the talks failed then the beds could be taken up by NHS commissioners in England keen to buy into the service.

“Once the LHBs told us they weren’t going to buy them English authorities got in touch and were happy to buy places,” Mr Denman said.

“I can only assume the Welsh LHBs don’t want to pay for it because they can’t afford it or want to divert money into community based projects.

“If people continued to drink, they suffered medical problems which force them into hospital taking up a general medical bed, but they are treated for the medical problem and not the underlying cause, their drinking.”

Bed occupancy at the centre was almost 100%, while 80% of those admitted went on to complete the treatment.

A spokesperson for Wrexham LHB said: “Our community support aims to ensure we reduce the level of inappropriate care, meet ongoing needs of patients and ensure that only patients who are ready for detox and have the right support packages in place are admitted.”