Email from Mary Heaton, Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries, Department of Health to Barry Haslam (01 May 2012)

Our ref: DE00000694144

Dear Mr Haslam,

Thank you for your email of 10 April about access to NHS treatment for benzodiazepine addiction. I have been asked to reply.

The report from the National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse on addiction to medicines recognises that the numbers in treatment reporting problems in relation to prescription and over-the-counter medicines may be under representative of the wider population of people who experience problems. Indeed, many local partnerships acknowledged that support and treatment for people who develop problems in relation to medicines would be provided by GPs, many of whom do not report to the National Drug Treatment Monitoring System (NDTMS).

Furthermore, it is clear from the discussions held at the roundtable meetings on addiction to medicines that some providers of addiction to medicines services do not report to the NDTMS.

The data reported to NDTMS indicates that there is access to treatment in most local areas and that people who do enter treatment tend to do well, based on national performance measures. However, it is clear that some local areas provide very little data and that there is a paucity of understanding of how to address the issue.

The national drug strategy aims to tackle all drugs of dependency, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines. Anne Milton, the Minister for Public Health, has stated her commitment to help prevent addiction to prescription medicine and to ensure that where people have become addicted they have access to the help and support that they need to recover. It is a complex issue and one that is best addressed through collaborative action. That is why Ms Milton convened the roundtable meetings of expert stakeholders to determine the action needed.

These meetings have identified a number of concrete actions to take forward, which have been agreed with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tranquilliser Addiction. These actions aim to improve the prevention of addiction to medicines and the support for those affected.

I hope this reply clarifies the Department’s position on this issue.

Yours sincerely,

Mary Heaton
Ministerial Correspondence and Public Enquiries
Department of Health
1 May 2012

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