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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 07:26 GMT
Charity warns on drug detox beds
By Carl Roberts
BBC Wales political reporter

Clients as the detox centre
The detox centre provides residential care for 16 people
A charity has warned that people will die waiting to access drug and alcohol detox treatment in north Wales.

From next month local health boards (LHBs) will cut the number of beds they provide for residential detox treatment in Wrexham to 13.

Hafan Wen is a purpose-built centre treating people addicted to drugs and alcohol, run by the charity Cais.

But the north Wales LHBs say it is part of a move towards more community-based treatment, agreed with Cais in 2005.

The centre was built to treat up to 20 clients at a time but health commissioners have steadily cut that number down to 16.

BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye programme understands that from next month the figure will be down to 13.

Those working in the field say they have grave conerns and believe cuts have been made to save money.

Mike Denman,
They become worse and worse and they will take up general medical beds because they are treated for the medical problems that they have
Mike Denman, Cais

The Hafan Wen unit is run by Cais, a Llandudno-based charity, which provides services for people with drug and alcohol problems.

"We have been working with the Welsh Assembly Government on waiting times and the information we currently have up until the end of August is that there are 120 people in north Wales who need this facility," said Mike Denman, Cais' strategic planning officer.

"Seventy-five per cent have alcohol problems and the rest are drugs. If those people continue to drink while they are waiting to get into the unit then their health is being harmed."

Mr Denman added: "They become worse and worse and they will take up general medical beds because they are treated for the medical problems that they have.

"Ultimately they don't survive - we are aware that people are now dying because they can't access services."

Cais said a long waiting list proved there was a need to provide more, and not fewer, beds for north Wales patients at Hafan Wen.

Hafan Wen
Hafan Wen may take patients from England to make it viable

There was also a warning that if beds continue to be cut then health commissioners from England would buy up the spaces.

"We could get into a situation in 12-18 months' time where half the unit is commissioned by England," said Scott Graham-Hammons, unit manager at Hafan Wen.

"I think Hafan Wen should be used for north Wales residents, but as a business I have to make it financially viable."

But health commissioners in north Wales said reducing the number of beds they paid for at Hafan Wen was agreed with Cais in 2005.

Fundemental review

A spokesman for the north Wales LHBs said "the change is part of an overall shift in the balance of care from inpatient to community services".

The health boards point to a "significant" investment in community care which "aims to ensure a reduction in the level of inappropriate care... and ensure that only patients who are ready for detox... are admitted," the spokesman added.

The North Wales LHBs deny that the changes were made in a bid to make savings.

Last year, the assembly government commissioned a review of detoxification and residential treatment in North Wales, with one conclusion that the services were under-funded.

The assembly government has since commissioned a fundamental review in to drug and alcohol treatment facilities in Wales and that report will be published at the beginning of next month.

Staff at Cais said they had received an indication that the report will call for an increase in both residential and community detox funding.

Dragon's Eye is on 2100 GMT on BBC 2W and 2235 on BBC One Wales on Thursday, and at 1630 GMT on 18 November on BBC Parliament.

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