In 2018, the Department of Health completed a comprehensive review of the New Strategic Direction for Alcohol and Drugs – Phase 2 (NSD-2) which aims to reduce the harm related to substance misuse in Northern Ireland. The review comprised two elements: an update on strategy outcomes and outputs; and stakeholder views on the implementation of the strategy. The second part of the review was undertaken by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) and involved structured engagement with stakeholders to understand the factors influencing the delivery of actions set out in the strategy.
The report by IPH outlines the factors influencing the delivery of policy actions and achievement of outcomes within NSD-2. In addition, IPH has produced a short summary document highlighting some of the key health inequalities resulting from alcohol and drug-related harm.
We know that some people are far more likely to suffer harms from alcohol and drug use than others and that socially disadvantaged communities carry some of the heaviest burden of alcohol and drug related harms. In particular, the number of older people living with alcohol and drug-related harms is rising. Substance misuse services are trying to respond to additional challenges including social isolation, mental and physical ill-health and disability.
Our review showed that cross-government and cross-sectoral working was critical to addressing inequalities. The needs of service users are ever changing and services are seeking to develop to respond better to co-existing substance misuse and mental ill-health, and to support people on a sustained recovery journey.
Accessibility and affordability of alcohol are important drivers of consumption, particularly among lower socio-economic groups. Minimum unit pricing of alcohol is an essential policy measure seeking to address alcohol-related health inequalities.
Following the final review of NSD-2, the Department of Health is now seeking initial feedback from partners and the general public on what could come next. The Department is seeking views on the vision, focus and priorities of any new or successor strategy. Feedback will help to inform future developments in policy and practice. It is important to note that the NSD Phase 2 – and all the structures that support action and collaboration – will remain in place until any new strategy is put in place.
Details about the pre-consultation can be accessed here. The closing date for responses is Friday 6 September 2019.