Drink and Drugs News DDN April 2020 (1) | Page 4

NEWS ROUND-UP Sector fights to stay on top of coronavirus outbreak North Yorkshire: Public support for key workers. Credit: Matt Pennington/PennPix/Alamy T he treatment sector is battling to deal with the unprecedented impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and protect its vulnerable service users. While drug and alcohol treatment staff are included in the government’s definition of key workers whose children are entitled to school-based childcare, the outbreak’s impact on services has been immense and professionals are extremely concerned about their already vulnerable client groups. A letter to the Times from more than 20 academics and organisations including Humankind, Transform and Release called on the government to recognise that it cannot successfully tackle the outbreak without increasing support for people dependent on drugs. Failure to do so would mean a ‘disproportionate increase in both coronavirus infections and other health problems, creating yet more pressure on the NHS,’ it says, with increased funding for treatment, OST, naloxone and sterile needles urgently needed. ‘People at risk of arrest should instead be diverted towards services,’ it adds, while those incarcerated for non-violent offences should be considered for early release, ‘not least because the virus is taking hold in prisons’. Peer-led organisations staffed by volunteers and ex-service users have Faster access to cannabis- based medicines IMPORT RESTRICTIONS on cannabis-based products for medicinal use have been revised to ensure that people with conditions such as multiple sclerosis or serious forms of epilepsy have faster access, the government has announced. While the law was changed in 2018 to allow specialist doctors to prescribe cannabis-based products for certain conditions (DDN, November 2018, page 5), delays in people accessing the medicines have been widely reported. The new rules mean that licensed wholesalers can import much larger quantities and hold supplies for future use. The government will also ‘continue to engage with medical associations and patients’ to build an evidence base, it says. Last year NICE ruled that more research was needed into cannabis-based medicines before they could be widely prescribed (DDN, September 2019, page 5). 4 • DRINK AND DRUGS NEWS • APRIL 2020 been forced to close to safeguard people’s health (see feature, page 6), and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has suspended its inspections. Public Health England (PHE), meanwhile, has stated that it is working with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to mitigate the impact of community pharmacy changes and closures, which is having a significant effect on the availability of supervised consumption for OST. Homeless people and rough sleepers have been particularly hard hit as they are unable to self isolate or regularly wash their hands, with homelessness charities issuing urgent calls for guidance in the early stages of the outbreak. While the government’s instruction to local authorities to find accommodation for all rough sleepers by 29 March seems to have been mostly successful, it was still unclear during the following week how many people were yet to be housed. For the latest coronavirus advice and updates visit drinkanddrugsnews. com/coronavirus-advice New directions TWO NEW SERVICES in Staffordshire and the North East have been launched by Humankind, which joins forces with Devon-based charity EDP from this month (DDN, February, page 5). Staffordshire Treatment and Recovery Service (STARS) has been commissioned for five years and will include harm reduction, clinical interventions, aftercare and more, while Reconnected to Health will provide recovery support in seven prisons across the North East. ‘We are very pleased to be able to support thousands more people across the length and breadth of England from today,’ said Humankind chief executive Paul Townsley. ‘Although these may be difficult times to begin new services, we are committed to extending our support and welcoming new staff and service users.’ Humankind and EDP had worked collaboratively for several years and ‘recognised that we could have a greater impact for service users by bringing together our learning, development and resources’, he added. Betway hit with record fine ONLINE GAMBLING company Betway will have to pay £11.6m for failings relating to a number of high- spending customers as well as its money-laundering responsibilities, the Gambling Commission has announced. An investigation found ‘a lack of consideration of individual customer affordability and source of funds checks’, with Companies’ management of their ‘high value’ customers needs to change. Richard Watson one ‘VIP’ customer losing more than £4m over four years and another almost £200,000 in two days. A third customer was allowed to lose more than £700,000 in three years, despite being unemployed. The investigation also found that almost £5m was allowed to flow through the business that was ‘found, or could reasonably be suspected to be’, proceeds of crime. Gambling companies’ management of their ‘high value’ customers needed to change, said Gambling Commission chief executive director Richard Watson. ‘The actions of Betway suggest there was little regard for the welfare of its VIP customers or the impact on those around them.’ Betway Ltd public statement at www.gamblingcommission.gov.uk WWW.DRINKANDDRUGSNEWS.COM