Minister to visit drug-help project

Date published: 22 June 2009

A campaign to get a Government health minister to visit Oldham’s pioneering benzodiazepine withdrawal service seems to have paid off.

Public health minister Gillian Merron is due to see the service, set up in 2005, local campaigner Barry Haslam has been told by letter.

The letter is from the department which arranges ministerial visits, but a time has not yet been fixed and depends on the minister’s diary.

Mr Haslam from Uppermill, who campaigned for years to get the treatment service set up for people addicted to prescribed drugs, is pleased with the news.

He said: “I have spent 20 years campaigning, but this is just the start.

“It is the first official recognition from Government that there is a problem with these drugs and Oldham has the solution.”

He praised Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Phil Woolas for helping to arrange confirmation that there will be a visit.

The treatment service, run by a full-time and part- time worker from the Addiction Dependency Service, is funded by NHS Oldham, and has helped around 400 people.

The £60,000 scheme is the country’s only withdrawal service for those addicted to legally-prescribed drugs.

The letter came in the same week that Mr Haslam was praised in a debate at Westminster Hall.

Bolton MP Brian Iddon, who has stood down as chairman of the parliamentary all-party group on drugs misuse, opened a debate on addiction to, and physical dependence on, prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

He told MPs: “Concerns have been rising in recent years about the number of people who have become physically dependent on or addicted to legal substances which has sometimes resulted in tragic deaths.”

And when he came to diazepines he said: “I cite the clinic run in Oldham by the well known Barry Haslam—or rather it is not run by him, as it is run by the Primary Care Trust, but he was instrumental in persuading it to set up the clinic. It is a very useful one, doing excellent work for benzodiazepine addicts.”