Reporter: JANICE BARKER
Date published: 22 September 2009
WORKING together . . . (from left) Suzanne Atreides, Gillian Merron, Barry Haslam and Immigration Minister and local MP Phil Woolas
Drugs help service is leading the way
A model of good practice — that’s the verdict of health minister Gillian Merron after visiting Oldham’s specialist service for prescription drug addicts . . . and it could be copied in other parts of the country.
The public health minister talked to addicts who are getting their lives back after being helped to come off benzodiazepines and other prescribed drugs at the Addiction Dependency Solutions centre in Greaves Street.
Ms Merron has already set up a review of the problems of addiction to legal drugs. And a health specialist has visited Oldham campaigner Barry Haslam, who fought his own addiction to Ativan, for his views.
After meeting health professionals, ADS staff and clients yesterday, the minister said: “This is a model of good practice which is why I was very keen to look at it as part of the review.” Asked if the Oldham model could be repeated, Ms Merron added: “I am very interested in seeing if we can.
“It is the kind of thing we can look at. Clearly, they do an excellent job in Oldham and the whole team is to be congratulated.
“Individuals have been generous in their honesty in telling me their experiences. They are very positive about rebuilding their lives with the help of this service.”
Care is given by Suzanne Atreides and Angela Rankin, benzodiazepine withdrawal support workers.
They are invited by GPs to help patients to reduce their addiction.
One client, a 34-year-old single Oldham woman, said: “Without Suzanne and the support of the group, I would never have known that when I was angry or crying, it was not me it was the drugs.” Wendy Kay, area director of ADS, said the service — paid for by NHS Oldham, the primary care trust — is putting a business case to the trust to double the service from one full-time and one part-time worker to three full-time workers.
She added: “If we had three workers we could go into every GP surgery in Oldham — we only do a third at the moment.”
After talking to the minister, Barry Haslam said: “I have been waiting at least 20 years for this — I am delighted.”