News in brief

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Ageist agenda

Better knowledge is needed of what works in the identification, treatment and prevention of drug problems in older people, according to a report from the Big Lottery Fund, along with improved collection and reporting of data. Drug use among older people is being ‘systematically ignored’, says The forgotten people: drug problems in later life. ‘Tackling ageist attitudes’ and improving the knowledge and skills of professionals were also necessary, said report author Sarah Wadd, as well as ‘making sure that drug treatment services are accessible and meet the needs of older people’. Report at www.biglotteryfund.org.uk. See news focus, page 6

Challenging times

The scale of the new psychoactive substances problem may be ‘even greater than estimated’, with services ill equipped to cope, according to a report from the Royal College of Psychiatrists (RPsych). Users may be reluctant to access help, while staff may not ask about the drugs during routine drug assessments ‘or have the skills to deal with problems when they arise’, says One new drug a week: why novel psychoactive substances and club drugs need a different response from UK treatment providers. The challenge was to ‘keep pace with this growing problem, while continuing to meet the demands of more established substance misuse problems associated with alcohol, heroin and crack cocaine’, said Owen Boden-Jones of CNWL’s club drug clinic. Report at www.rcpsych.ac.uk

Hep feedback

A global patient survey to reveal how hepatitis C is treated around the world has been developed by the World Hepatitis Alliance. HCV Quest is ‘your platform to share your thoughts about your care, the impact of HCV on things like your work and lifestyle and the sources you trust for credible advice about your health’, says the alliance, with the results used to inform policy-makers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. www.worldhepatitisalliance.org/en/hcv-quest.html

Stark stats

Greater Manchester sees an average of just over 19 emergency hospital admissions for alcohol-related liver disease every week, according to figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC). Areas of the North West and North East of England have the highest admission rates in the country, says the centre, with hospitals nationally admitting more than 10,000 cases of alcohol-related liver disease in 2013/14 – more than 200 a week. Alongside Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Lancashire were the areas with the highest rates of emergency admissions, with around eight and nine per week on average respectively. Statistics at www.hscic.gov.uk. See this month’s Exchange.

Meth migration

Methamphetamine manufacture, traditionally concentrated close to major markets in North America and East and South East Asia, has now spread to other countries, according to a report from UNODC. Iran, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Guatemala are among the countries where manufacture is taking place, says Global SMART update 2014, while it is also spreading across Europe, ‘though at low levels’. Report at www.unodc.org

Premium plans

Public Health England (PHE) is consulting on aspects of the Health Premium Incentive Scheme (HPIS) – which rewards local authorities for public health improvements in line with indicators from the public health outcomes framework – and public health funding allocations for 2015-16. Consultation at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/health-premium-incentive-scheme-and-public-health-allocations until 23 October

Acute issues

A study of specialist alcohol health workers in hospitals has found that ‘the work is often precarious and underfunded’, with more investment and better research needed. ‘The government’s alcohol strategy identified hospital-based specialists as key,’ said James Nicholls, director of research and policy development at Alcohol Research UK, which funded the study. ‘It is vitally important that this role is adequately supported.’ Report at alcoholresearchuk.org

Family feuds

A £120,000 funding package to support families affected by drug and alcohol problems in rural areas has been announced by the Scottish Government. The money will go towards a small grants scheme administered through the Lloyds Partnership Drug Initiative, which promotes voluntary sector work with vulnerable young people. ‘It is vital that everyone has access to these services no matter where they live,’ said community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham.

Blue sky thinking

Prison drug charity RAPt is to merge with Blue Sky Development, a social enterprise providing employment to offenders. Blue Sky’s jobs will be targeted at RAPt graduates, ‘giving them a step on a career path to support their continued recoveries.’ 

Benefit blunders

Welfare sanctions can have unintended consequences including distancing people from support, negative impacts on third parties – particularly children – and ‘displacing rather than resolving issues such as street homelessness and anti-social behaviour’, according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Sanctions also disproportionately affect those under 25, as well as homeless people and other vulnerable groups, it says. Welfare sanctions and conditionality in the UK at www.jrf.org.uk