74% rise in North West drug-related deaths in last decade prompts Tories into new addiction strategy

With just over a week to go until polling day, the Conservatives have pledged that they will launch a new strategy intended to tackle drug and gambling addiction.

The scheme is a national project and will seek to improve drug addiction services as well as helping clients access appropriate treatment. A Conservative government would also develop new targets in the hope of reducing drug-related deaths each year.

As part of their devolution agreement with Westminster, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) – which consists of the ten local authorities in the region – has control over a £6 billion integrated health and social care budget.

GMCA launched its Drug and Alcohol Strategy 2019-21 which revealed that there had been a 74% increase in drug-related deaths in the region over the last decade.

The report also revealed that there had been a 48% increase in hospital admissions related to substance misuse amongst those aged 15-24 over the last six years. The Greater Manchester rate of admissions per 100,000 of the population aged 15-24 is 31% higher than the average rate across England.

An NHS Digital report revealed that across the ten boroughs of Greater Manchester, 1,375 people were admitted to hospital with a primary diagnosis of poisoning by drug misuse. The local authority with the highest number of cases was Wigan with 220.

According to the Office for National Statistics, the North West had the third-highest rate of drug misuse, with 68.3 deaths per million in 2018. This was higher than the England and Wales mortality average of 50.9 deaths per one million.

It is not solely substance addiction that the Tories are pledging to reduce. Under a Conservative majority government, there will be a review of the 2005 Gambling Act.

An independent group of experts, including medical professionals, campaign groups and industry bodies will review several issues including marketing, advertising and the misuse of credit card payments.

Secretary of State for Health Matt Hancock said: “Drug-related deaths have risen and new harmful substances are fuelling mental health crises – and in the digital age the prevalence of online gambling risks more people experiencing gambling-related harm.

“We have the best health service in the world and we now need to marshal its resources to protect those affected by addiction and ensure that they receive the treatment and support they need.”

Labour’s proposals include establishing a Royal Commission which will develop a public health approach to substance misuse. The party wants to address drug-related deaths as a public issue and believe that prison is not the best way to tackle addiction.

Labour also pledge to introduce a new Gambling Act, establishing gambling limits and a levy for problem gambling funding and mechanisms for consumer compensations.

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