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Alcohol treatment system is performing well but more work is needed to achieve further improvements

The system for treating problem alcohol use amongst adults in England is working well for many people, statistics released today (17 January) by the NTA have shown. More people who need help for alcohol use are coming forward for specialist treatment. The number who successfully complete their treatment programme is increasing, with fewer people dropping out.  Waiting times are low and improving.

Today's figures have been published as local authorities prepare to take on responsibility for commissioning alcohol services, supported by a new national body, Public Health England (PHE), from April 2013.

Alcohol treatment will be a significant priority for PHE. Whilst specialist treatment is only one part of the local authority and NHS response to the harms caused by alcohol, the new arrangements present a good opportunity to ensure that effective services are meeting local need, underpinned by national support.

The national statistics and trends are analysed in an NTA report 'Alcohol treatment in England 2011-12'. Key findings include:

  • 108,906 people received alcohol treatment in 2011-12, down 2% from the year before. This includes 74,353 new entrants to treatment during the year, a rise of 1% compared to 2010-11.
  • 38,174 people successfully completed their treatment, 6% more than the previous year.
  • Most people (38%) referred themselves into treatment, 19% were referred by their GP.
  • 70% of all those in alcohol treatment were concentrated in the 30 to 54 age range and the average age of a person in treatment was 42. Men accounted for nearly two thirds of the treatment population during the year. By far the biggest ethnic group was white British (88%).

NTA Director of Delivery Rosanna O'Connor said: "The high number of people who require help with problem drinking remains a great cause for concern. The signs that more are seeking to overcome their alcohol misuse and more are successfully completing treatment are, however, encouraging. This progress will continue to be driven by Public Health England, working with local authorities to ensure that the full range of effective alcohol services are available and accessible.

"Today's figures are only part of the picture.  We can't be complacent that all those who need alcohol treatment are accessing it, given that an estimated 1.6 million people have some level of dependence. Although the large majority of these may only need a less intensive intervention outside the treatment system, we know that more work is needed by local authorities to ensure that alcohol treatment is being delivered to meet their populations' needs in line with national guidance from NICE.

"The health problems and costs associated with alcohol misuse are rising year-on-year, and preventing and tackling it will be a key priority for PHE.  PHE will have dedicated alcohol expertise and will be working to support local authorities and the NHS, and also to progress the wider development of two key elements of the Alcohol Strategy: Identification and Brief Advice (IBA) and hospital based provision."


The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA) is a National Health Service (NHS) special health authority which aims to improve the availability, capacity and effectiveness of drug treatment in England.  From April 2013, the NTA's core function will transfer to Public Health England, and the NTA will cease to exist as a separate organisation.

The NTA commentary 'Alcohol treatment in England 2011-12' is available to download or email

For further information please contact the NTA press office on 020 7972 1921 / 1904 or out of hours call 07747 536087.

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