Amy Winehouse death prompts MP inquiry

Amy Winehouse was considered a style icon and the leading voice of her generation.
Amy Winehouse was considered a style icon and the leading voice of her generation.

By Ian Dunt

MPs are to look into waiting times for drug treatment, following the speech given by Amy Winehouse's father at her funeral yesterday.

Mitch Winehouse, who gave evidence on drug treatment to the home affairs committee two years ago, said most NHS services entailed a two-year wait.

"Three years ago, Amy conquered her drug dependency, the doctors said it was impossible but she really did it," he told mourners.


"In this country, if you cannot afford a private rehabilitation clinic, there is a two-year waiting list for help. With the help of Keith Vaz MP, we are trying to change that."

This morning, Mr Vaz commented: "Mitch Winehouse gave powerful evidence to the home affairs select committee during our inquiry into drugs in 2009. Drawing on his personal experience he highlighted the long delay in accessing treatment for those with addiction.

"Two years on we need to revisit this issue to see if anything has improved. I am very happy to help Mitch in any way I can with his important campaign to help rehabilitate those most vulnerable in our society."

The National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse (NTA), part of the NHS, says 94% of patients are seen after less than three weeks.

During his 2009 testimony, Mr Winehouse said some addicts committed offences just to access treatment.

"People are definitely committing offences so they can have a chance, and it's only a chance, of receiving treatment," he said.

"The biggest impact on families is that there is very little help available to them, especially if their relative is a non-offending addict.

"The problem we found in our research in London is that it's a year before any treatment can be given. It's very difficult and the reason for this is the majority of funding is taken up by the criminal justice system."

News of the death of the highly-regarded jazz singer shocked Britain and the world over the weekend, prompting as many expressions of sadness in political circles as it did in the wider community.

Several drug treatment groups hope that the heightened discussion around addiction could lead to extra funding or new policy initiatives.

At a private funeral yesterday attended by family and friends, Mr Winehouse said his daughter had been content in her final days.

"She said, 'Dad I've had enough of drinking, I can't stand the look on your and the family's faces anymore'. She was not depressed," he said.

"She was in her room, playing drums and singing. As it was late, her security guard said to keep it quiet and she did.

"He heard her walking around for a while and when he went to check on her in the morning he thought she was asleep. He went back a few hours later, that was when he realised she was not breathing and called for help.

"But knowing she wasn't depressed, knowing she passed away, knowing she passed away happy, it makes us all feel better."

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