A DECISION to shift services for people with drug and alcohol problems to a Manchester-based firm has been criticised by doctors.
City chiefs awarded a £7 million three-year contract to the Lifeline Project, for work previously carried out by community organisations.
GPs and activists have railed against the plans, which they say could lose the trust of the “Trainspotting generation” – people who took up drink and drugs in the 1980s.
Dr John Budd, a GP at the Edinburgh Access Practice, said: “GPs are absolutely incensed. They see it as undermining the whole community ethos that they were starting to get on board with.
“Small, community-based charities are being cast aside for big national operations. There are individuals who are here today purely because of a relationship with these organisations.
“This was done through a paper-based exercise, with no meaningful consultation or consideration of the views of GPs or other healthcare workers.”
Through the £7.2m deal, Lifeline will provide services in south-west, south central and north-west Edinburgh from April, while a firm called Turning Point will deliver services in the east. It is expected to save around £89,000 per year.
Now community organisations face closure without council funding, including North Edinburgh Drug and Alcohol Centre (NEDAC) which grew from the HIV/Aids epidemic in Muirhouse in the 1980s. A petition to save it from closure attracted more than 500 signatures.
NEDAC manager Danny Campbell said: “It’s extremely sad as NEDAC has been working in the community for 30-plus years so we know the area well and what it needs.”
The other at-risk organisations include the Castle Project, in Craigmillar, and CHAI, in Wester Hailes.
Green finance spokesperson Councillor Gavin Corbett said: “If promises don’t stack up then we have put at risk a couple of decades of painstaking work with a client group who can easily run a mile from the help they need.”
City health leader Ricky Henderson said: “Lifeline was awarded three contracts following an open and fair tendering process. This involved extensive consultation with service users and their families.
“Lifeline already provides similar services in Edinburgh, and it is our intention to ensure that the change in provision will not affect the level of service to those who need it.”