News in brief

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HIV action

A new three-year HIV prevention programme has been backed by the leaders of all 33 London boroughs, with more than £3m allocated to run the project until 2017. Eighteen of the 20 local authorities with the highest diagnosed HIV prevalence are in the capital, which saw its first increase in new cases for a decade – 8 per cent – in 2012. ‘It is alarming to see such a sharp increase in HIV diagnoses, but London boroughs have been quick to act,’ said London Councils executive member for health, Theresa O’Neill. Earlier this year the National Aids Trust warned that London’s councils were failing to respond appropriately to increasing levels of high-risk drug use in parts of the gay community.

What’s all this then?

The Home Affairs Committee has announced an enquiry into the effectiveness of police and crime commissioners (PCCs). Despite being a ‘key part’ of the new policing landscape, their work ‘has not been without controversy,’ said committee chair Keith Vaz, while the Independent Police Commission’s Policing for a better Britain report stated that the ‘experiment’ with elected PCCs had been ‘riddled with failings’. A separate report has been issued by the Revolving Doors Agency, focusing on PCC responses to groups such as young adults and people with complex needs. Meanwhile, seizures of class A drugs fell by 3 per cent in 2012/13, according to the Home Office, while class B seizures fell by 10 per cent.

Policing for a better Britain at independentpolicecommission.org.uk, First generation: one year on at www.revolving-doors.org.uk, Seizures of drugs in England and Wales, 2012/13 at www.gov.uk

Phoenix finalists

Welsh band CoverUp from Bridgend have been named winners of Phoenix Futures’ Re:Cover music project (DDN, September, page 5). Other finalists were Common Ground from Glasgow, Leeds rapper Nate, singer/songwriter Adam Norrie from Sheffield, Essex-based Rob the Liar, London solo artist MJ Lines, Leicester band Maya and Phoenix Voices, a choir featuring community members from Phoenix’s Wirral residential service.

Hear them all at www.phoenix-futures.org.uk/recover

Older options 

A pocket guide on preventing alcohol-related harm to older people has been published by the British Association of Social Workers (BASW). The guide contains a section of dos and don’ts as well as effective approaches for interventions.

Alcohol and older people available at www.skillsconsortium.org.uk 

Underlying causes

Drug services should increase their focus on underlying traumas and difficulties, according to a new report from the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF). High quality psychological therapies need to be more widely available, says Trauma and recovery amongst people who have injected drugs within the past five years, with failure to respond effectively storing up future problems for individuals, families and society. Interviewees’ drug use was primarily a ‘dysfunctional coping response’, says the document. ‘We hope that the findings of this research will help challenge the all-too-common perception that a person’s drug problem is a lifestyle choice or “self inflicted”,’ said SDF director David Liddell. ‘We need to recognise and take action on the wider factors underpinning substance use dependency which have blighted generations of disadvantaged families across Scotland.’

 Available at www.sdf.org.uk 

Hep step

A commitment to introduce an opt-out test for hepatitis C and other blood-borne viruses by next April has been included in a partnership agreement on co-commissioning health services in prisons between the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), NHS England and Public Health England (PHE). It is thought that up to one in ten prisoners has hepatitis C, a virus that is ‘grossly underprioritised’ according to the Hepatitis C Trust (DDN, November, page 4). Trust policy advisor Becky Hug called the agreement a ‘brilliant step forward to improving public health, both inside and outside prison walls’.

PbR problems

Payment by results has suffered from ‘crude implementation’, according to a report from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), with some contracts failing to account for the complex nature of services or containing targets irrelevant ‘or even detrimental’ to the desired outcomes. ‘Implementing PbR effectively requires intelligent thought and carefully crafted incentives, but many PbR contracts fall well short of this,’ said NCVO chief executive Sir Stuart Etherington. ‘Crudely designed targets and contracts risk pushing expert voluntary sector providers out of public service provision.’ 

Payment by results contracts: a legal analysis of terms and process at www.ncvo.org.uk

Welsh deaths down 

The number of deaths related to drug misuse in Wales fell to just over 130 last year from more than 150 in 2010, according to Welsh Government statistics. More than 200 lives have also been saved since 2009 through the take-home naloxone campaign, the government says. Substance misuse in Wales 2012-13 and Working together to reduce harm: substance misuse strategy annual report 2013 at wales.gov.uk