Public Health Minister Anna Soubry visits Mount Carmel (January 2013)

We were very privileged to be able to host Public Health Minister Anna Soubry on a fact-finding visit to Mount Carmel in January.  The visit included discussions with both clients and Mount Carmel’s management team, and her questions were as keen as would be expected from not just her position in the Department of Health, but previous careers as a journalist and then a barrister. 

The Minister was particularly interested in the experiences of the clients: their drinking years, their search for help with their drinking, and then their time at Mount Carmel.  She said afterwards "Today I heard first hand individual's stories of the terrible impact of alcohol dependency.  Mount Carmel provides an excellent service. It sets clients on the road to recovery from alcoholism through therapy and offering vital support to them and their families.”

Ruth Allonby explained some of the points that she made to Ms Soubry: “We are very grateful to the Minister for taking time to come and see what we do, meet our clients, and to hear about some of the issues we face.  We are aware that all sectors face funding restrictions, and ours cannot be an exception.  However, within the available spend on alcohol treatment there is in my view scope for re-assessing how that limited money is spent. 

“I would argue that for some drinkers, it is obvious from their first contact with the care system that residential treatment is the only solution that will work.  I would say, rather than offering more limited interventions, send those people straight to us.  Any other treatment will be unsuccessful, a waste of money, and will prolong the suffering of the clients and their families.”

There can be a general view that visits by politicians can be superficial PR exercises where little information exchange takes place.  Our experience from several visits from senior politicians, and it was equally true of the Minister's visit, is that they are listening very carefully to everyone, ask penetrating questions, and leave with a better understanding of the absolute necessity for good alcohol treatment centres.  We really feel that our voice is heard in the corridors of power!