Following its recent 'outstanding' rating by the Care Quality Commission, Oxford Mail health reporter Chris Ord learns more about Oxfordshire's drug rehabilitation service.

EDWARD Knight used heroin and crack cocaine on and off for about 20 years.

Drug use had already put paid to a promising football career.

At his lowest ebb he held up a shop and was sent to prison for robbery and attempted robbery.

It was a cry for help that eventually turned his life around.

He got clean in prison and his release included conditions that he attend Oxfordshire County Council's Turning Point group for rehabilitation.

The 38-year-old, from Abingdon, explained: "I was a bit reluctant to do that initially. I was maybe a bit arrogant, thinking ‘what can they do for me?’ but I’ve been absolutely blown away by the services here.

"The care and support is immense, even down to the staff I don’t really know.

"I’ve been to all the groups, from relapse to mindfulness, smart recovery and an after-care group. I’ve started doing voluntary work in the Refresh café.

"I’m training to be a peer mentor and I’ve started going to Ruskin College to study mental health and addiction.

"Here the support is ongoing and we’re grateful to have that service. I could go on all day about how great it is. I know deep inside that good things are going to come from all of this."

Izzy Pappas, 41, of Oxford, was another to have been using heroin and crack cocaine for more than 20 years before finding solace at Turning Point.

She said: “For the last six or seven years I’ve been in and out of rehab, getting detox and then suffering relapses. Coming here all the time to see people who want the best for us is brilliant.

“Even when I’ve given up on myself, these lot are just always here, checking I’m ok, reminding me about appointments, doing group work, working at the Refresh café. Having that friendly face when you come in just made my day."

Ms Pappas said the team went out of their way to help her when she suffered a relapse, and encouraged her to stay clean.

“It has been that overall care package which I’m so grateful for. I’ve been clean for four months now. I’d like to give something back now.”

"Best place I have ever been."

Turning Point launched in Oxfordshire in 2015 and now has treatment hubs in Oxford, Banbury, Didcot and Witney seeing about 1,000 people a week.

Public Health England statistics appear to back up the personal testimonies, with 164 out of 1,658 (10.6 per cent) opiate (heroin) users in Oxfordshire successfully completing treatment in the last 12 months.

Some 262 out of 589 (57.2 per cent) of alcohol users successfully completed treatment within specified pathway - this puts the local authority 1st within local authority comparator groups.

The stats have also now been borne out by the national Care Quality Commission, which has rated the service 'outstanding'.

Senior operations manager at Turning Point Oxfordshire Andy Symons, is justifiably proud of these statistics, which led to it receiving an ‘Inspired by Possibilities’ award as the highest Outcomes Performing Service.

Mr Symons, who launched the Oxfordshire service in 2015, said: “One of our proudest achievements coming out of the Turning Point CQC report was the quality of our work with our Oxfordshire partners.

“We work very closely with Thames Valley Police, particularly around vulnerabilities like modern-day slavery, child drug exploitation and County Lines drug dealing.

“We work closely with mental health services, homelessness and the joint work with Oxford University Hospitals, providing Hepatitis C treatment. Turning Point also works closely with the courts for offenders on community sentences such as drug rehabilitation requirements.”

Oxfordshire County Council member for public health Lawrie Stratford added: “Turning Point can feel justifiably proud of the work it is doing in our communities to help those people wanting to turn their lives around.

“Results from the recent CQC inspection are proof that we have an excellent service on our doorstep working hard and engaging with partners to make a difference to people’s lives.”