New funding allocated to local councils to combat drug and alcohol misuse should be used to increase the availability of services through community pharmacies, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has proposed.

The government announced yesterday that local authorities across England will receive a total of £267m of government funding from April 2024 to improve drug and alcohol treatment and recovery services.

Every local authority across England will be allocated additional funding, which can be used to ‘recruit more specialised staff to work with people with drug and alcohol problems’, enable more people to access structured treatment and recovery services, and improve the quality of treatment provided.

Alastair Buxton, CPE director of NHS services, commented that the news of increased funding for local services was ‘good news’, saying that ‘it should be used to increase the locally commissioned services that community pharmacies provide.’

He told The Pharmacist that community pharmacy teams were ‘vital assets in supporting key public health initiatives such as those around treatment for drug and alcohol use’, adding that ‘the local commissioning of such services by councils has been impacted in recent years by reductions in public health budgets.’

‘This move would align with the recently published Vision for Community Pharmacy which recommends widening the scope of pharmacy in the prevention arena, enabling them to offer a package of public health services helping position pharmacies as local health and wellbeing hubs,’ he said.

The funding is part of the government’s 10-year strategy to improve quality and access of drug and alcohol treatment and reduce drug use to a 30-year low.

It is based on recommendations from an independent review carried out by Professor Dame Carol Black, which found that the best way to tackle drug misuse and related crime was by boosting the capacity of the treatment and recovery system.

Commenting on the funding announced this week, Professor Dame Black said: ‘A key aim of my report was to make sure vulnerable people with substance misuse problems can access the support and tools needed to recover and lead full lives.’

And she said that the funding ‘will go directly to local authorities and their partners, meaning they can deliver treatment that is tailored to meet local needs’.

‘The end goal is to get many people into world-class recovery and treatment system, reduce drug use and drug related crime – and ultimately save lives,’ she added.

The new funding comes in addition to £95.4m awarded in 2022-23 and £154.3m allocated to combat drug and alcohol misuse this year.

Previous funding has been used to establish services such as a non-fatal overdose (NFO) team in Hartlepool, which provides interventions such as a needle syringe programme, Naloxone to reverse opiate overdose, opiate substitute treatment (OST), relapse prevention medication and community alcohol detox.

The funding to combat drug and alcohol misuse follows last week’s announcement that funding available to local smoking cessation services would ‘more than double’ by next April to £140m.

CPE told The Pharmacist at the time that in order to avoid a ‘postcode lottery’ for smoking cessation support, the government should commission a national service that builds on the existing advanced service to enable people to access smoking cessation support through non-referral routes.