NHS SMPA's full written response to the Health and Social Care Committee's inquiry on Drug Policy

In March, NHS SMPA submitted written evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Commitee’s Inquiry on Drug Policy. In addition to this, Chair of NHS SMPA, Danny Hames, is providing oral evidence on 11th June 2019.

Read the executive summary of the written evidence below, or download the full evidence submitted.

Executive Summary of Written Evidence Submitted by the NHS Substance Misuse Provider Alliance (NHS SMPA) for the Health and Social Care Committee Inquiry into Drugs Policy

The reported rise in drug related deaths has been of particular concern to the NHS Substance Misuse Provider Alliance (NHS SMPA). We therefore welcomed the opportunity to respond to the Health and Social Care Committee Inquiry into Drugs Policy, and the focus on health.

This paper surveys the range of health harms associated with drug use and the failure of drug and wider services to work collaboratively to address the complex needs of frequent and long term drug users.  The problematic use of alcohol is often associated with drug use and as a key element in service provision. Whilst the scope of this Inquiry does not specifically reference alcohol, this is a significant dependency that merits consideration in conjunction with this review.

We endorse a ‘whole system’ approach to prevention, early intervention and drug treatment, with drug agencies working creatively and cooperatively with physical, mental health, social care and criminal justice services to address health inequalities and premature deaths, and secure better health, well-being and inclusion by people using drugs. The paper offers a number of examples of effective, integrated care from our services and internationally.  

Whilst maintaining the ambition to help people become free from drug dependence, we continue to value the role of high quality, personally tailored opioid substitution therapy (OST) in mitigating harm for long term heroin users.

We are also concerned that the committee addresses the ‘Quality Gap’ between evidence based and routine practice in services for people using drugs, with safeguarding of specialist clinical expertise, increasing research capacity to learn from what we do, and quality standards in commissioning and review of drug services.

Based on our observations, we have set out five key recommendations for the committee to consider.