Hartlepool health chief defends alcohol services after rise in dependency stats

The head of public health for Hartlepool has defended local treatment services after new figures revealed the number of people in the town dependent on alcohol had increased.

Wednesday, 20th November 2019, 4:00 pm
The number of alcohol dependent people in the North East is rising

Data released last week by Public Health England showed the number of people in Hartlepool dependent on alcohol in 2017-18 stood at 1,372.

In 2010 the figure was 1,187 people. Addiction treatment experts, UK Addiction Treatment (UKAT), say the closure of five rehabilitation facilities since 2013 has left the North East with only one residential unit.

They say there is ‘no excuse’ for the increase and accused councils of being ‘lackluster’ when it comes to prioritising treating people for alcohol addiction.But Dr Pat Riordan, Hartlepool Borough Council’s Director of Public Health, said treatment centre closures have not affected their ability to help people tackle alcohol dependency.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

She said: “We remain committed to ensuring people affected by alcohol and drug problems get the right support and treatment, through both community-based and residential treatment options.

“Whilst we acknowledge that there have been residential treatment centre closures nationally, those closures have not impacted upon our ability to provide high quality support services and residential placements for clients, and we are continuing to invest in key prevention and recovery work.”

That the number of adults in the North East who are dependent on alcohol stood at 36,711 in 2017/18 – a rise of 1,741 from the figure of 34,970 in 2010.

That means one in 17 people in the region have a major drink problem.

UKAT said there was ‘no excuse’ for the increases since April 2013 when local councils took on lead responsibility for public health, including alcohol services.

Nuno Albuquerque, UKAT’s Group Treatment Lead, said: “Councils across the North East assumed lead responsibility for alcohol service provision back in 2013, giving them full autonomy of how and where they spend their annual Public Health Grant, yet the numbers of people dependent on alcohol and in need of treatment is rising instead of falling. There is no excuse for this.

“Clearly, councils here have their heads buried in the sand about alcohol dependence because the numbers speak for themselves; in seven years, things have only got worse.”