News in brief

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Voicing concerns

Public Health England (PHE) has not yet ‘found its voice’, developed a clear set of priorities or demonstrated that it is sufficiently independent of the Department of Health, according to a report from the Health Committee. There was now an ‘urgent need’ for PHE to show it could ‘speak truth unto power’, said committee chair Stephen Dorrell MP. ‘PHE should not look to the Department [of Health] or other parts of government to prompt its research or, still less, to authorise its findings,’ he stated. ‘PHE can only succeed if it is clear beyond doubt that its public statements and policy positions are not influenced by government policy or political considerations.’

Public Health England at www.parliament.uk

Council call

The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on social media companies to introduce health warnings about internet drinking game NekNomination. ‘This is an utterly reckless and totally irresponsible craze which has tragically claimed lives,’ said chair of the organisation’s wellbeing board, Katie Hall. ‘The LGA is looking for these corporations to show leadership and not ignore what is happening on their sites. We are urging Facebook and Twitter executives to sit down with us and discuss a way forward which tackles this issue head on.’

Mmm… DANOS

The revised National Occupational Standards (NOS) for drug and alcohol workers have now been launched by Skills for Health. ‘The continued development of competent practitioners, volunteers, managers and commissioners in the substance use sector is crucial for the delivery of high quality effective services which meet the needs of the individuals and communities we serve,’ said FDAP chief executive Carole Sharma.

Revised DANOS at tools.skillsforhealth.org.uk/competence_search/

Stopping stereotypes

A youth alcohol summit organised by Alcohol Concern saw young people call on policy-makers to see them as ‘part of the solution to the alcohol problems the country is facing, not part of the problem’ and attempt to challenge stereotypical views of the young as binge drinkers. ‘Young people are often spoken about in alcohol policy discussions but rarely asked for their views,’ said Alcohol Concern policy programme manager, Tom Smith. ‘It’s time for this to change.’ 

In denial

The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) has expressed ‘concern’ at US initiatives to legalise the ‘non-medical and non-scientific’ use of cannabis. Launching its annual report, INCB president Raymond Yans said the organisation ‘deeply regretted’ developments in Colorado and Washington, which ‘contravene the provisions of the drug control conventions’. INCB was ‘in denial’ of calls for a meaningful debate on global drug policy, however, said International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) executive director Ann Fordham. ‘The board is apparently oblivious to the growing number of member states questioning the status quo and exploring alternative policies.’

INCB annual report 2013 at www.incb.org

Poor provision

Homelessness services are still failing to support women effectively, says the final report of the St Mungo’s Rebuilding shattered lives project, as they are predominantly designed by, and for, men. More than 10,000 women accessed UK homelessness services last year, says the document, with many more ‘hidden’ homeless. ‘This report evidences a sad chronicle of missed opportunities where women fail to get the help they need,’ said St Mungo’s chief executive Charles Fraser. ‘National leadership is key.’

Report at www.mungos.org

Winging it

Prison drug recovery wings (DRWs) need to be segregated from the wider establishment, with clear referral pathways and strong support from senior management, says a new report from the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). Commissioners should also consider delivering ‘a range of recovery-focused interventions including accredited drug treatment programmes’ as part of their DRW regimes says the document, which studies the five DRWs launched in 2011.

Drug recovery wings set up, delivery and lessons learned: process study of first tranche DRW pilot sites at www.gov.uk

Vital signs

The London Drug and Alcohol Policy Forum (LDAPF) has launched a new version of its Vital info guide to drugs and their associated risks. Available free in leaflet form from ldapf@cityoflondon.gov.uk or to download at www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/ldapf, with an optimised web version coming soon.