Work and Health: How Bristol’s drug problem is affecting employment

Twice as many Bristolians are being admitted to hospital for drug misuse than the national average, according to NHS data.  Among its many side-effects, this is believed to be impacting Bristol’s employment rates.

Public Health England recognises substance misuse as a long term health condition which can contribute to the barriers preventing people from accessing and sustaining employment.

Experts believe that the contraction of specialist services has been the cause for the increase in drug misuse.  To combat it, more funding must be given to specialist training, education, volunteering, and employment (TEVE) support.

The soon-to-be-elected West of England ‘metro’ mayor will co-design a new Work and Health programme, with the opportunity to improve these areas.


NHS Statistics on Drug Misuse

The NHS Statistics on Drug Misuse shows that more than twice as many people are being admitted for drug-related issues in Bristol as the national average.

The national average admission rate for people with a primary or secondary diagnosis of drug related mental health and behavioural disorders is 148.4 per 100,000 people, whereas in Bristol, it is 318.6 per 100,000.

This is having an effect on employment levels in Bristol.  While the economic activity rate in Bristol is almost exactly level with England – 77.3% compared to 77.4% in 2014, respectively – in Bristol, the gap in the employment rate between those with long term health conditions and the overall employment rate is 12.5% – compared to a national gap of 8.6%.


Contraction of Specialist Services

Bristol Drug Project
Brien sat down for an exclusive interview with UWE Bristol Wired.

Yaz Brien is the Sustain Project Co-ordinator, working in partnership with Volunteer Bristol and Bristol Drugs Project, as part of the wider Recovery Orientated Alcohol & Drugs Service (ROADS).

Drug Rave
“Work hard, play hard” – Many workers blow off steam at drug-fueled raves

She states that those in recovery from alcohol, drug and substance addiction require training, education, volunteering, and employment (TEVE) support.

There has been a “contraction of specialist services here in Bristol.”

They “are as broad a demographic as anyone else in the population.”

“A number of industries are known to work hard and play hard, and people who take some time off to recover from addiction are fearful of returning to that working environment.”

She wants to see the stigma surrounding drug and substance misuse, as well as a change in the “work hard, play hard” work culture, alongside funding for these specialist services.


‘Metro’ Mayor

This week, the West of England will vote for their first mayor.  This ‘metro’ mayor will be given control over newly devolved powers including transport and housing.

They will co-design the new Work and Health programme.  This will focus on supporting the long-term unemployed and those with a health condition or disability, including drug addiction.

The ballot paper will feature candidates from Labour, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Greens and UKIP as well as an independent.


Lesley Mansell on the topic of Drugs
Labour‘s candidate for the ‘metro’ mayor, Lesley Mansell.

In January, Lesley Mansell was chosen to represent the Labour and Co-operative party in the upcoming mayoral election.

The NHS Equality and Diversity manager has previous experience working in the field of drugs and alcohol within the health service.  She describes it as a “Cinderella service of a Cinderella service.”

Mansell believes those affected by drug and substance misuse get into “cycles which they can’t manage to break.”

She wants to “break that cycle” by investing in the health service, offering more job and training opportunities and introducing rent caps to tackle Bristol’s “very high” prices.

Liberal Democrats

Stephen Williams on the topic of Drugs
Liberal Democrats‘ candidate for the ‘metro’ mayor, Stephen Williams.

Former Bristol West MP, Stephen Williams is running on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

Williams previously sat on the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee during the coalition years, which looked at drug reform.

To tackle Bristol’s drug and employment problems, he wants to invest in local NHS services including detoxification programmes and line these up with training and work opportunities to get those affected back into the workforce.

Green Party

Green‘s candidate for the ‘metro’ mayor, Darren Hall.

Darren Hall has previously worked for the Home Office as as a crime and drugs manager for Bristol, later promoted to Regional Manager.

He believes that it is “incredibly important that we treat drug addiction and substance misuse as a health issue, first and foremost.”

Hall wants to invest in the services available to those struggling and provide on their road to recovery, wants to provide them with “a job to show they’re worth something … and build them up to get back into, what we regard as, normal life.”


Independent candidate for the ‘metro’ mayor, John Savage.  Credit: Jon Craig

John Savage is the only independent candidate running in the upcoming election.  He currently sits as Chairman of the University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

If elected, he pledges to invest more in health education as a means of improving Bristol’s drug and employment problem.

His manifesto states, “improved health education will pay off with the future reduction in healthcare costs and a more energised, reliable workforce.”

Conservatives and UKIP

DrugWith regards to the remaining candidates, while UWE Bristol Wired reached out for comment, both Tim Bowles (Conservative) and Aaron Foot (UKIP) declined to comment on the issue.  Neither candidates’ manifestos made mention of the Work and Health programme either.


Did drug addiction cause this?
As drug addiction can result in job loss, homelessness and health issues; will the new Metro Mayor be able to rid Bristol of its drug problem?

Related Links

If you struggle with alcohol, drug and/or substance addiction please contact your local health service or charity (such as Bristol Drugs Project) to seek the professional and medical advice which you may need.

If you’re willing to share, please get in touch with us by commenting below, on Twitter @UWEWired or our Facebook page ‘Bristol Wired’.


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