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The quiet revolution: health service reform and its impact on drug and alcohol services in England

Marcus Roberts (Director of Policy and Membership at DrugScope, London, UK)

Drugs and Alcohol Today

ISSN: 1745-9265

Article publication date: 16 September 2011

Issue publication date: 16 September 2011




The purpose of this paper is to examine the implications for drug and alcohol treatment of radical policy changes being implemented by the government, particularly the proposed transition of responsibility for treatment from the National Treatment Agency to a new public health service from 2013.


It is argued that this is a critical moment in the development of substance misuse services in England, particularly given the impact of health service reform. Concerns are raised about the lack of reference to drug and alcohol treatment in key policy documents, such as the Department of Health's White Paper Healthy Lives, Healthy People. The removal of the “ring fence” from the pooled treatment budget may result in national disinvestment at a time when public spending cuts are likely to reduce local authority spending on drug and alcohol treatment. It will be challenging to deliver on the vision of recovery in the “Drug strategy 2010”.


The new public health structures and the commitment to recovery create new opportunities to improve services too – for example, the potential for joint working through Health and Wellbeing Boards. It is also positive that Healthy Lives, Healthy People stated that the NHS Constitution will apply to the public health service.


While these changes could provide a platform for improving outcomes, there is a genuine risk that substantial disinvestment in drug and alcohol services will be witnessed.



Roberts, M. (2011), "The quiet revolution: health service reform and its impact on drug and alcohol services in England", Drugs and Alcohol Today, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 125-129.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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