WIRRAL Council has called in the national health regulator after it was revealed 74 people have died while under the care of a drugs and alcohol support group paid by the authority to help addicts.

The charity "Change, Grow, Live" was commissioned by the council 18 months ago to look after people in the borough who are experiencing difficulties with drug addiction or alcohol dependency.

Councillors voted to continue CGL's £7.7m contract when the ruling Labour cabinet met on Monday.

Now it has been disclosed watchdog Public Health England was asked by the town hall in August to examine why such a worryingly high number of deaths have occurred.

Of the 74 deaths, four were from drugs overdose while the majority were caused by health problems stemming from substance misuse.

It is understood the health regulator was made aware of the deaths after a whistleblower sounded the alarm.

A council spokesman said: "Wirral has a high number of people who have been receiving drug and alcohol treatment for a long time - often for more than 20 years.

"Unfortunately this often goes hand-in-hand with living particularly unhealthy lifestyles which bring huge health risks.

"In February 2015 we commissioned a new contract to provide one-to-one, intensive support to help people in these situations to live healthier lives.

"As soon as concerns were raised we asked Public Health England for support.

"We are in constant dialogue with both Public Health England and the service-provider and we are confident people in Wirral are receiving excellent services in this area.

"But as with every one of our commissioned services it will be kept under constant review."

A representative from CGL said: "The 74 deaths recorded is a combined figure for alcohol and drug deaths.

"Only four of these deaths relate to overdose while the majority relate to underlying long-term health issues exacerbated by substance abuse.

"Predicting and identifying those at risk of death by overdose due to underlying health issues and improving pathways to connect service users with the correct health service is of paramount importance and an area in which CGL are leading." 

The spokesman continued: "We investigate each and every death– something that is unique in the field.

"The methods of recording and reporting deaths vary between providers and the way deaths are recorded has changed since CGL took over the Wirral service."

The issue was reported on Thursday's BBC TV News.

But the deaths were first revealed on the internet when an article was posted in July on local website Wirral Leaks, which regularly breaks stories from insiders and whistleblowers about alleged questionable practices in public sector organisations.


The number of drug-related deaths in England and Wales reached record levels last year, figures from the Office for National Statistics showed today.

Fatalities involving heroin and cocaine were both at their highest since comparable records began in 1993.

The increasing purity of substances is believed to be a possible factor behind the rise in deaths.

ONS researcher Vanessa Fearn said that age was another cause for the increase, particularly with older heroin users.

The Department for Health said overall drug use was declining.

Overall, 3,674 drug poisoning deaths involving legal and illegal substances were registered in 2015. Of these, 2,479 involved illegal drugs only.

The ONS said the mortality rate from drug misuse was the highest ever recorded, at 43.8 deaths per million population.