PEOPLE with alcohol problems are dying before they can get help because of a desperate shortage of services in Salisbury, say experts in the field.

Despite soaring levels of alcoholism, Wiltshire only has one in-patient bed with a six-month waiting list - and alcoholics needing a home detoxification programme face an eight-week wait before they are seen.

Now, a non-profit making organisation, Step Aside, aims to raise £6,000 to open a therapy service in the city centre and help alcoholics before it is too late.

The project is being backed by GPs and nurses throughout Salisbury who feel frustrated at the time it takes for alcoholics to get the help they need.

"The situation is just getting worse and worse and services are at breaking point," said senior practice nurse at St Ann Street Surgery, Tracey Brignall-Roe.

"It used to be relatively rare someone came to me with an alcohol problem, now it seems to be every week.

"But once people have taken the brave step to ask for help they need it straight away and, as a medical professional, you feel so helpless telling them there will be such a long wait.

"There are people falling through the net and dying as a result."

Last month, 30-year-old alcoholic Jack Croft died when he fell into the River Avon.

He started drinking at the age of 15 and his family, who are calling for more funding for services, were once told they would have to wait six months for Jack to receive help.

Step Aside was formed last year to offer counselling, support groups, detox programmes and advice with the help of a six-month grant.

When the money ran out, founder of the organisation, Thalia Shannon-Eyers, who used to work for Clouds House at East Knoyle and The Priory, and a team of volunteers pledged to carry on their work.

"We currently have about 40 people we help but with no money it is very hard to promote ourselves and keep going," said Thalia.

"But I believe everybody deserves a second chance in life and we don't want to shut the door on anyone."

Thalia's mission is to take over premises on Fisherton Street so they can help more people overcome their alcohol addiction.

"Alcoholism affects every profession, all ages, all religions and all walks of life," she said.

"And for every one person we help, there are many more suffering in silence because they feel ashamed and guilty."

The NHS, alongside a number of other charities and organisations, also runs projects to help alcoholics in Salisbury.

But as demand increases, there are calls for more to be done.

"We feel alcoholics have a right to care," said Tracey.

"They don't ask for a drink problem any more than anyone wants to get cancer or diabetes.

"This is an illness and I feel it's time we all worked together to stop more tragedies happening in Salisbury in the future."

To find out more about Step Aside, which has no waiting list, visit or call 01722 744507.

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