Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today called on the Scottish Government to take urgent steps to support struggling substance misuse services, after new figures showed NHS Lothian breaching the waiting time target for alcohol and drug treatment.
The Scottish Government’s Local Delivery Plan standard for drug and alcohol treatment states that 90% of people needing help with drug or alcohol problems will wait no longer than three weeks for treatment.
NHS Lothian has consistently failed to meet this 90% target. During the quarter ending March 2019 just 79.4% of patients were treated within 3 weeks.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
“NHS Lothian has consistently struggled to meet this important target. The Scottish Government should adopt the Liberal Democrats’ 10-point plan to transform the way we approach alcohol and drug misuse, including a commitment to protect the budgets of services. Services can’t afford a repeat of the 20% cut ministers made in 2016/17 - a mistake they are still recovering from.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrat 10 point plan for tackling drug and alcohol misuse calls for:
- A ministerial commitment to protect the budgets of alcohol and drug partnerships for the duration of the strategy, after the Scottish Government implemented a 20% cut to services in 2016/17;
- A ministerial commitment to cease sending people caught in possession of drugs for their own personal use to prison, as happens hundreds of times a year, and instead send them for treatment and education;
- An explanation of why drug treatment and testing orders, which the strategy says “can have a positive impact on both drug use and offending”, were only used 31 times in response to 4,400 convictions for possession in 2016/17;
- Local authorities to make licensing decisions based on venues’ efforts to keep their customers safe, instead of punishing them for incidents on their premises;
- The Scottish Government to back a regulated cannabis market, taking it out of the hands of criminals and tackling trends including increased potency which the strategy describes as “concerning”;
- The Scottish Government to establish proposals for a Scotland-wide network for the provision of heroin-assisted treatment, expanding on preliminary plans for a site in Glasgow;
- Drug-testing to be deployed at localities where there is a need, allowing at risk users to find out what is in a substance and offer advice on harm reduction;
- Adverse childhood experiences to be routinely recorded as recommended by Scottish Government advisor Sir Harry Burns;
- Additional action to address neonatal abstinence syndrome through support for expectant mothers;
- The minimum unit price of alcohol to be raised to 60p to meet the policy’s original ambition and account for inflation in the years that the policy’s implementation was delayed.