NO WAY TO DISPENSE PUBLIC MONEY
Read the complete blog here.
The NTA’s poor and unfair practices mean it cannot be trusted. This £19million+ a year public-health authority should be wound down now, not in two years' time.
It is bad enough when we find that huge sums of public money have been wasted, as in the case of the NTA’s management of the last government’s damaging mass methadone prescribing exercise. (The latest UK drug death figures published this week revealed that drug deaths involving methadone rose by another 8% this year and that methadone is now the second highest cause of drugs deaths after heroin and morphine). It is outrageous when we find basic standards of procedure over allocation of capital sums have been ignored.
This appears to be the case with a particularly shoddy process the National Treatment Agency has just overseen. On July 22nd, Drug Action Teams were sent an invitation to bid for £8million of capital – a potential lifeline for rehabilitation centres which have been disinvested in, to the point of closure, over the last 12 years. These are the centres on which the success of government’s new treatment approach will largely depend. But here comes the catch…
They were given less than a week to submit their bids for money on which their survival might depend. In some cases, DATs did not even invite providers to take part in the bidding. The closing date for bids was July 29th so any bids had to be drafted – and the support of one or more statutory bodies to the DAT partnership secured – between July 22nd and July 29th (which included a weekend and was the start of the school summer holiday).
On the basis of the NTA’s past performance, services guiding addicts to drug-free lives would be forgiven for believing that being an abstinence service had a lot to do with their rejection.
For the NTA’s past form on capital allocations does not give comfort. Last time round in the bidding for a capital pot of £54million, the majority of small abstinence rehabilitation providers did not even get a look in, regardless of their track records of getting at least 65% of their clientele totally drug free, into education and training and on the way to employment. For details of how deeply unsatisfactory this past process was, see Addiction Today’s report at the time.
It is not clear why the Department of Health decided to give this deeply unsatisfactory body a two-year life extension, especially given the Public Accounts Committee’s recent devastating critique. Ministers may come to rue this decision.
The decision has left the NTA operating as usual, with control over spending by Drugs Action Teams and Primary Care Trusts. For both are still required to submit their drugs treatment budget/spending and care plans for approval to the NTA in January 2011. These plans are due to be passed in March, yes by the NTA, for the year to come. This will most likely block any real change till the end of 2012. By then, as one concerned colleague commented to me last week, “no doubt the NTA hierarchy will have embedded themselves in the DH and still be able to destroy and wreck lives by putting whatever spanners in the works of treatment reform they disagree with.”