Monday, 26 May 2008

On two Celtic fronts (Scotland vs Wales)

It's Bank Holiday here in the UK. Tomorrow will start a major week for the field in Scotland as they will be introducing a new strategy, one focused on helping people find recovery. I referred to, and complimented the Scottish Government for, the change occurring in Scotland in my Blog of March 28th, where I also linked to my Drink and Drugs News articles on recovery. If you really want to get your teeth into some good reading on recovery then turn to Bill White's page on the Faces and Voices of Recovery website.

I am looking forward to reading the new Scottish strategy and I really hope it leads to significant changes in approach, and to a massive increase in the number of people finding recovery. However, we must remember that here is a substantial difference between a written strategy on recovery and the implementation of all the changes required to make it work. There needs to be a significant change in ethos from top to bottom. Sadly, I feel sure there will be much lip service paid to the word 'recovery' (and much misconstruing of what it means) by those people who want to maintain the status quo. At the same time, I know some of the people who are totally committed to this approach - and they will work very hard to make sure that it bears many fruits. Change will not occur overnight, but it will change as long as those people supporting the recovery agenda are given the support they need to move it forward. 
Meanwhile, here in Wales, nothing much changes! Dr Brian Gibbons, the minister in charge of the substance misuse agenda - he who does not respond to important emails - has been on a week of spin during the National Tackling Drugs Week. He tells us that there have been "massive strides forward" in tackling the drugs problem in Wales. 
Utter poppycock! Unless you consider making adjustments to the English strategy, publishing a document, spending money, trying to attract people into 'treatment', and counting numbers of people going through the door, a significant advance. Anyone can do that! What is important is the provision of effective treatment that helps people overcome their problem (not just one or a few people that you trot out for the newspapers) and a system that allows practitioners to be able to do that. It also requires an understanding of what is required to help people, by those in charge of the system.
Those of us who know what really is going on in Wales know that Mr Gibbons and his team have little idea of what is required. I very rarely ever hear anyone pay a compliment about the Assembly' efforts to help people overcome substance use problems (except those people working for the Assembly) and I am always hearing criticisms. The real sad thing is that practitioners have told me that they are frightened to speak out in case their treatment agency loses money. There is a climate of fear and Wired In is not the only organisation to have heard this. 
So, Dr. Gibbons, could we please have a system that understands what it is needed to help people recover from addiction, and starts to implement what is required. Can we have less spin - remember what happened to the father of New Labour spin, Mr Blair - and less of a climate of fear? An analogy - any government can build a hospital. What is required is the building of a hospital with professionals who know what to do to help people get better and are supported in doing it by the government.
If we don't see some real action instead of spin, the people of Wales will start speaking out, despite the underlying threats. And remember, the people pay your wages and those of your staff.   
Start doing something that really matters - please!


tim1leg said...

well yes Prof I wholeheartedly share your hope that Scotland truly will move forward with the new strategy helping hundreds possibly thousands into recovery and if this happens we can influence the rest of the UK Im sure.

I know of several recovery focused pilots currently running and taking place here in Scotland with already impressive results.

I hope the field in general across Scotland already funded through either local authority contracts or through charitable trusts etc are also held to account over the next year to make sure they are indeed focusing on recovery and not as you say paying lip service and carrying on regardless whilst many still suffer.

Time will tell.

My main concern though is that it will be open to interpretation.... and all that will happen will be some goal posts get shifted and new paperwork created a few new buzz words get thrown around and .... well you know the rest, people continue to die and suffer.

I for one will be watching with real hope over the next year and look forward to read the document on Thursday. If anyone gets a copy before then please forward it thanks.

I smiled wryly when reading your blog today with reference to the assembly and the right honourable minister, no one can say you don't shoot from the hip Prof and hey you hit a bulls eye today.
Well done and keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Great piece David.

I was also delighted to read Neil McKegany's excellent contribution to the new proposals, thus firmly putting methadone into its correct perspective, a stepping stone to recovery, rather than viewing long term use of such an addictive drug as recovery.