Select Committee on Home Affairs Memoranda


National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse



  The National Treatment Agency is a Special Health Authority created by the Government on the 1st of April 2001 to raise the quality of drug treatment in England. This summary of the NTA's initial Business Plan has been prepared in advance of key staff joining the agency and reflects the broad thrust of NTA activity rather than detailed workplans which will be included in the NTA's Corporate Strategy document available in March 2001.


  The commissioning and delivery of high quality effective treatment for drug misusers is fundamental to the success of the Government's drug strategy "Tackling Drugs to Build a Better Britain". The NTA is the vehicle through which the Government intends to improve the availability, accessibility and effectiveness of drug treatment in England.


  The United Kingdom Drug Strategy identifies doubling the availability of treatment as a key target.

    `To increase participation of problem drug misusers, including prisoners in drug treatment programmes which have a positive impact on health and crime by 66 per cent by 2005 and by 100 per cent by 2008.'

  Achieving this underpins all the NTA's activities.


  Improving the quality of treatment has to accompany the growth of services if the Drug Strategy is to succeed. The NTA will seek to drive up the quality of treatment in three ways:


  High quality commissioning is the key to the NTA's success. Guidance and support will be provided to Drug Action Teams and their Joint Commissioning Groups on all aspect of the commissioning process from needs assessment to contract monitoring. Management Information systems will be developed to enable DATs to performance manage service providers and meet the NTA's information needs without unnecessary duplication.


  DATs will be expected to commission and services will be expected to deliver practice which is evidence-based, appropriately delivered, outcome focused, and integrated into a system of care management. To equip DATs and service providers to meet this agenda the NTA will:

    —  Distil and disseminate best practice drawn from research.

    —  Collaborate with others to initiate research into effectiveness.

    —  Develop a system of standards and accreditation for services, individuals and programmes of intervention.

    —  Enhance the competence of managers and staff across the treatment sector and manage a strategy to attract and retain high quality staff.


  The NTA's Regional Managers will work with DATs and service providers locally to improve the quality and effectiveness of treatment available to their community. Working closely with DPAS and other regional structures the NTA's Regional Managers will provide:

    —  An authoritative treatment lead in each region.

    —  A clear line of communication and accountability between the NTA as the manager of the pooled treatment budget and DATs as in the bodies with local responsibility for ensuring that the budget is spent to best effect.

    —  The means through which the NTA will hold the agencies represented around the DAT table to account for poor performance.

  As part of this performance management process the NTA will develop capacity to monitor local drug treatment spending and work with DATs to ensure they have access to meaningful management information on which valid judgements about performance can be based.


  The treatment currently available too often excludes significant portions of England's diverse population. The NTA will work to develop systems of treatment which respond to the needs of the whole population identified through regular needs assessment. We need to ensure that appropriate relevant and accessible services are available to currently marginalised groups. The Race Relations Amendment Act will oblige commissioners, services, and the NTA to address deficits in the provision of services to black and minority ethnic populations, but the NTA needs to build on this to improve the appropriateness of services for women, young people, stimulant users, those living in rural areas, individuals with complex needs and others who have historically been excluded. One of the ways in which the NTA will seek to meet this challenging agenda will be by ensuring users are involved in the development of its policies and expecting DATs and service providers to mirror this.


  The NTA's priorities during its first six months activity reflect its needs as a new organisation the agenda inherited from government departments and current Ministerial priorities.

Priority 1—NTA Role and Structure

  Set up the NTA and achieve an early indication from Ministers of the Agency's role in alcohol treatment.

Priority 2—Workforce Planning

  Recruitment, retention and improving the competence of managers and practitioners require urgent attention if the Government's investment in treatment is to yield best value.

Priority 3—Audit

  Effective commissioning and performance management by DATs demands the development of robust management information systems.

Priority 4—Reducing waiting Lists

  The geographical variations in access to services are unacceptable. Agencies need to learn from colleagues how to organise their services to enable speedy access.

Priority 5—Stimulants

  The current services for problematic stimulant use are patchy. Identifying and implementing effective treatment is a key priority.

Priority 6—Reducing Drug-Related Deaths

  As part of a wider Harm Reduction agenda the NTA needs to cooperate with the Department of Health to implement the actions identified in the Government's response to the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs report on Drug-Related Deaths.

Priority 7—Addressing Diversity

  Action to ensure equal access to relevant and appropriate services for the whole population, regardless of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, disability or location, will be a theme across all NTA activity.

Priority 8—Criminal Justice

  The reduction of drug related offending is a key component of the NTA's success.

Priority 9—User Involvement

  Involving service users in the planning and monitoring of treatment is a priority for Ministers and will inform all the NTA's work.

Priority 10—Young People

  Appropriate dedicated services for the minority of young drug misusers requiring treatment need to be developed. The NTA will work closely with the Home Office Drug Policy Directorate to ensure that this work is fully integrated into the Young People's strand of the Drug Strategy.

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Prepared 20 December 2001