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Drug rehab funds diverted

 Some addicts have to wait months to get help

Money to cut waiting lists for drug treatment programs has been diverted to other areas of health spending, a BBC News investigation has found.

At least 12 drug action teams in England did not use all the funds allocated to them last year.

The money the teams could have used was diverted to other health priorities.

This was because some drug action teams failed to prepare properly for the extra investment, according to the National Treatment Agency (NTA), which oversees services across England.

'Isolated instances'

In Birmingham, for instance, $900,000 was left over. Most of it went on mental health provision, because facilities and staff for drug treatment were not in place.

The NTA said this was despite the fact that the teams had been told well in advance to prepare for extra funding.

Health Secretary Alan Milburn acknowledged there were some isolated instances where money was incorrectly allocated.

But he blamed accounting problems and poor record-keeping by drug action teams.

Rehab programs

An Audit Commission report earlier this year identified long waiting lists as one of the most pressing problems in need of action if the UK's drug problem was to be tackled.

It found a five-month waiting list to see one community drug team, which drove so many addicts away from seeking help only one in three turned up to appointments.

The commission said at the time: "Too many drug users still struggle to get the help they need, when they need it.

"As a result, many end up trapped in a cycle of dependency and drug-related crime."

The NTA was created by the government in 2001, partly to streamline "dissipated" drug spending in England, so money was used more efficiently.