Belfast families affected by opiate addiction feel 'abandoned'

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Andrew Madden

A GROUP of Belfast families affected by drug addiction have said they feel "abandoned" after a health trust dismissed a complaint regarding waiting times for treatment.

Belfast Families for Equal Healthcare (BFEHT) is made up of more than a dozen people whose loved ones are currently on a waiting list for treatment for opiate addiction.

The substitute prescribing programme is designed to help addicts kick their habit through offering replacement medications, such as Methadone or Subutex.

Members of BFEHT, however, say that their family members have been on the waiting list for up to 18 months and more needs to be done to address the issue.

In March, the group sent a letter to the Belfast trust to voice their concerns and the following month they met with representatives.

Members said they were not satisfied with the outcome of the meeting and lodged a formal complaint in May.

"They [the trust officials] offered no alternatives of how to solve this problem and did not explain how the service has reached such a low point," the complaint letter read.

"Could GPs work with the Substitute Prescribing Team to help reduce the waiting times? Why has only one person from the list received treatment in the last six months?

"We are very frustrated, upset and frightened for the future of our loved ones. We demand this situation be resolved as soon as possible."

In response to their complaint, the group received a letter on behalf of Martin Dillon, the chief executive of the Belfast trust.

"It is disappointing that you expressed dissatisfaction about meeting with senior staff," it read.

"That is certainly not the perception of the clinical and management staff of the trust, or indeed those who took the time to thank us for our attendance and expressed their reassurance that the trust are trying to improve services and attract additional funds.

"I am sorry that we have not been able to resolve your issue through the complaints process. This letter is regarded as the trust's final response to your complaint."

A spokesperson for BFEHT said the group feels let down by the trust and plan on taking the complaint to the Northern Ireland Public Services Ombudsman.

"We just feel we have been abandoned and ignored - the whole group is disgusted," they said.

"We have been given no further meetings, no explanations and no answers as to why our family members can't get the same treatment afforded to others."

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