A NEW pan-Dorset drugs partnership board could be bogged down in philosophical argument on the approach to ‘gateway’ drugs – even before it starts in September.

There is also concern that the board could be perceived to be led by the police …when many believe it should be health-centred.

Both views were voiced at this week’s meeting of the county’s joint public health board.

Dorset Council deputy leader Cllr Peter Wharf said he had been surprised, in pre-discussions about the board, how there were two opposing views to ‘gateway’ drugs, with some claiming policy should only centre only on harder Class A drugs.

He said he did not want to get to the first meeting in September to then have the argument and it needed to be sorted out before then.

“I am concerned we will get to that meeting and end up with an argument about some basic philosophical disagreements rather than what it is we are doing to assist people,” he said.

Joint public health committee chair Cllr Mohan Iyengar said he shared the view – and was also concerned that if the new board was chaired by the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, David Sidwick, it might lead to mis-conceptions about what the purpose of the board is.

“For the whole onus to the on the police is wrong – but equally for the direction and priorities to be set by the police is not quite what we want. It’s a broader thing which makes it more difficult, but we’ve got to start as we mean to go on,” he said.

Cllr Wharf said he was not clear If the board ought to be community-led, or clinical-led, but he was certain he did not want it to be perceived as a police initiative.

Dorset director of public health Sam Crowe said one of the key messages the new board needed to follow was national strategy and to ensure Dorset had enough funding for treatment places, although there might some leeway other areas.

He said that his understanding was that the new board would be independent but the Home Office would want to see reassurances that the national strategy was being delivered.

The public health director said one of his concerns was about getting the right level of representation without the board becoming too large or unwieldy.