DIFFERENCES for Dorset’s drug and alcohol services should be ironed out with new contracts and a re-shaping of the service.

Work will be carried out in the coming year to ensure that services are available, in broadly the same way, across both rural Dorset and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.

At the moment different services are offered in different areas – largely as a hang-over from the previous local government system.

A report to a pan-Dorset public health board on Tuesday said that while performance in the Dorset Council area is good the provision in the BCP area is described as “inequitable, with different approaches, service designs and funding per head, and commissioned by both BCP Council and Public Health Dorset.”

The report recommends a single commissioning strategy for the BCP area as a whole, to ensure “equity and efficiency, with one organisation responsible for all relevant services.

Cllr Graham Carr-Jones said that Weymouth had pressing needs for better drug and alcohol services – compounded by losing premises at the community hospital and not being able to find a new base after residents’ concerns about proposals to use a B&B establishment in Abbotsbury Road.

He said there was a need for different services to work together in the area to find the best way of tackling the problem. He said that it might be possible to work with those planning for a 20-place hostel for the area which was being proposed to help tackle homelessness.

He was also critical of services in the rural areas, describing them as “sketchy, a bit hit and miss”, claiming that drug and alcohol problems in the country areas were largely hidden and remained under the radar, getting less attention than urban areas, where the problems were more obvious.

He said that the Weymouth service had lost premises at the community hospital and many of the bases in rural Dorset market towns were now closed.

Councillors were told, that at present, the offer for clients varies across the three areas of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, with psychosocial and young people’s provision offered by different providers, with slightly different specifications, priorities, and funding per head.

One of the biggest challenges is likely to be funding with an increase of 50 per cent in the number of drug and alcohol mis-users in some areas, but no increase in staffing levels to match that.

“These pressures mean not only that staff have less time to ensure the safety of their clients (and those around them), but also that the clients have less support to be able to make progress on their treatment journey. The proportion of people completing treatment successfully in any given year has therefore understandably declined,” said a report on the future of the services.

Poole councillor Sandra Moore said it was only recently that she realised services were completely different across Bournemouth, Poole and Christchurch.

“I would welcome harmonisation. I think it’s clear where the money needs to go,” she said.