Pioneering heroin support programme in Middlesbrough to end after 3 years due to lack of funding

Daniel Ahmed, who set up the clinic in 2019, called the news disappointing. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A pioneering drug support programme in the North East is to end three years after it launched, due to a lack of funding.

The Diamorphine Assisted Treatment (DAT) scheme was the first of its kind in the UK outside of a trial setting when it launched in October 2019.

Staff were informed earlier this month that the project will no longer receive government funding.

The service, in which heroin users were given a safe space to inject Diamorphine, was set up to reduce the number of street deaths caused by heroin addiction and promote recovery.

Users were given syringes prepared with the correct dose as part of the scheme. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

DAT (previously known as HAT) also aimed to cut off funding for gangs and provide respite for local communities, which are often victims of crime to fund addiction.

The project was primarily funded by Cleveland's Police and Crime Commissioner when it was introduced, but Steve Turner announced that would not continue when he took over the role in 2021.

Since March 2022, the programme continued at a reduced level through Operation Adder – targeted Government funding to reduce drug related deaths and offending in the town, but the cash has now been pulled.

Clinicians called the news "disappointing" and pointed to evidence suggesting the scheme leads to major reductions in consumption, improvements to users' physical and mental health, and large reductions in criminal behaviour.

Clinical lead Danny Ahmed (left) with Cleveland's former Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger in 2020. Credit: PA

Daniel Ahmed, Foundations Medical Practice partner and clinical lead for DAT, said: “Independent evaluation of the Middlesbrough DAT programme has shown conclusively that it has met the aims it was set up to achieve.

“The decision to cease funding is extremely disappointing news and our priority is for the patients currently receiving treatment.

“The debate that perhaps needs to now take place is how joint commissioning can best be implemented to ensure long term funding of such treatment across the country.”

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.