NTA hits out at BBC for 'misleading' story
The National Treatment Agency (NTA) has written to national newspapers that repeated a BBC news story claiming that public money is being wasted on unsuccessful drug treatment services to refute the allegation. BBC reporter Mark Easton claimed that just 70 more people successfully completed their treatment drug free in 2006/07 than the previous year, despite an extra £130m in funding - equivalent to £1.8m per person. The letter, signed by chief executive Paul Hayes who took part in a tense interview with Mr Easton on BBC Radio 4's Today programme (DDN, 22 October issue, page 4), also stresses the importance of not focusing on drug free completions as the only benefit of treatment. The letter states that the BBC misinterpreted figures on the NTA website and failed to check its facts before broadcasting the story. 'Sadly, the BBC got its numbers wrong,' it says. 'More than 5,800 individuals completed treatment free of illicit drugs in 2006/07, 2,200 more than 2004/05, not the 70 claimed by the BBC.' The error, along with the original story's exclusive emphasis on drug free completions 'misleads the public into believing that what is actually a successful system is failing', says the letter. 'The £400m that the government invested in drug treatment last year has to be judged against 180,000 individuals whose treatment has protected them from early death, reduced their criminality and provided the opportunity to rebuild their lives in the future,' it continues. 'To judge treatment solely on the small numbers that finally leave the treatment system in a given year as the BBC has done is misleading and dangerous to the drug users, their families and society.'