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Written Statement - Substance Misuse Strategy – Annual Report 2015

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Aims to set out a clear national agenda for tackling and reducing the harms associated with substance misuse in Wales.
Vaughan Gething, Deputy Minister for Health

As we approach the remaining period of our 2008-18 strategy, “Working Together to Reduce Harm”, the Welsh Government continues to invest almost £50million annually to tackle substance misuse.  Our strategy sets out a clear national agenda for tackling and reducing the harms associated with substance misuse which has such a devastating impact on individuals, their families and our communities.  

We are today publishing the Substance Misuse Annual Report for 2015 which outlines the progress we have made during the last 12 months.  Crucially, we can show that our action in this area is making an impact.  We have seen an overall trend of improvement to reported waiting times for those accesssing treatment servies over the last 5 years and latest statistics showing reductions in both drug and alcohol related deaths in Wales.  

Our next delivery plan will be clear on the contribution the substance misuse agenda can make to achieving the goals set out in the Well Being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.  The plan has also been developed in line with the principles of prudent health and care.  Indeed the way in which substance misuse services have been shaped and delivered in recent years provide good evidence of prudent health and care in practice.  This area of policy, rooted as it is in building in the needs of service users at the outset and delivered by professionals in both the statutory and third sector is a good example of how these principles underpin service delivery and examples of this approach has been shared via our making prudent healthcare resource www.prudenthealthcare.org.uk.

The 2015 report published today concentrates on the progress made during the past twelve months which include further work to build on the launch of the ‘Recovery Framework’ in February 2014.  We have worked in partnership with practitioners to develop and roll out ‘Theory to Practice’ training for commissioners and providers to ensure that recovery based approaches are fully integrated into core substance misuse treatment services.

Reducing deaths from drug related poisoning and from drug misuse remain a key priority given the tragic impact they have on families and the wider community. Statistics released in September 2015 show a 30% reduction in drug misuse deaths in Wales since 2010 which bucks the trend elsewhere in the UK.  We are clear that taking early action to roll out initiatives has significantly impacted on the reduction in deaths across Wales.  During 2014-15, the amount of Take Home Naloxone (THN) kits distributed, which reverses the effects of opiate overdose, has increased by 55% with 2,785 kits supplied, of which 257 kits used in opioid poisoning events.


We have also seen a growth in the number of people being assessed and treated for substance misuse services over the last year, with an 11% increase in clients assessed and a 10% increase in the number treated.  Even with these significant increase in numbers, waiting times have remained consistent with 87% of clients seen within 20 days.


We have made no secret of the fact that we were disappointed that the UK Government has not taken stronger action to reduce alcohol related harm.  However we will continue to support the UK Government’s Public Health Responsibility Deal and the six new pledges which were announced last year.  We have recently established a Welsh Government Alcohol Industry Network to help understand how those pledges are being implemented in Wales.  


The Welsh Government remains actively involved in the review of alcohol guidelines being led by the four UK Chief Medical Officers and we are continuing to roll out alcohol brief interventions across Wales, including trialling the programme in the workplace.  


We are also continually striving to improve the quality of services that we provide and are piloting a new framework that requires all residential rehabilitation placements to be made to services that are compliant with the national core standards for substance misuse.


We continue to work with partners to tackle the harms associated with substance misuse and there continues to be significant challenges that we need to address in the coming year. I have asked the Advisory Panel on Substance Misuse to consider the recommendations from the Health and Social Care Committee’s Inquiry into New Psychoactive Substances and to advise on how we can strengthen our policy response. I also look forward to receiving the panel’s report on tackling substance misuse in an ageing population which is due to be published in the New Year.

Work will also continue to strengthen our response to Alcohol Related Brain Damage (ARBD by building on the foundation work that has been undertaken by the Brynawel rehab, Alcohol Concern Cymru, Public Health Wales and others,

The attached report outlines further detail on the progress we are making to implement our 10 year substance misuse strategy and supporting delivery plan. Tackling the harms associated with substance misuse continues to be a priority for the Welsh Government. By the continuing investment in the substance misuse agenda, further embedding the principles of prudent health and care and the ongoing collaboration of partners across Wales we will continue to make progress in this important area.