Working together to reduce harm from alcohol and drugs

County Hall in Morpeth.
County Hall in Morpeth.

Partners from across the county gathered today at an alcohol and drug forum organised by Northumberland County Council.

The Working Together to Reduce Harm Caused by Alcohol and Drugs event aimed to bring partners together with a range of experience and knowledge on alcohol and drugs and the harm they can cause, and to promote the Alcohol CLeaR Assessment as a framework to review progress and shape actions to address this important public-health issue.

Alcohol CLeaR is a self-assessment process which allows progress in reducing the harm caused by alcohol to be monitored. The tool brings together all those working to address issues around harmful alcohol use in a locality to think through what is working well and to identify the opportunities for further improvement. The process was extended to include drug harms because of the overlap between the two.

CLeaR stands for three linked domains:

Challenging services - looking at key aspects of local delivery and comparing that against the evidence base, identifying local innovation and learning.

Leadership - reviewing the local vision and governance supporting this, planning and commissioning arrangements and evidence of collaboration between partners.

Results - examining the data and outcomes achieved locally and considering progress against local priorities.

Coun Veronica Jones, cabinet member for adult wellbeing and health, said: "Drugs and alcohol can contribute to many aspects of poor health and I didn't realise the extent to which alcohol contributes to increasing someone's risk of cancer until this event. We are concerned about some of the patterns of alcohol use in Northumberland as it can have devastating consequences for individuals, their families, friends and communities. By using the Alcohol CLear self-assessment, we can find opportunities where we can all work together to reduce the harmful effects of drug and alcohol misuse."

Speaking at the event, Northumberland County Council's interim director of public health, Liz Morgan, said: "Death from chronic liver disease is one of the few disease areas in which we're making little progress. Deaths are increasing and the most recent figures suggest that death rates in Northumberland are now significantly worse than for England as a whole. Much of this will be fuelled by harmful drinking and we know that admissions to hospital for alcohol-related conditions are high in the county.

"However, the good news is that we have a lot of information about what works in tackling harmful drug and alcohol use and we also know that, generally, young people are drinking less. This event will help us to work better together to combat the harm resulting from problem alcohol and drug use."

Anyone who thinks they need help to tackle a drug or alcohol problem can contact the dedicated substance misuse service, the Northumberland Recovery Partnership, on 01670 396 303.