SNP ministers urged to develop plan to reduce drug and alcohol-related deaths

SCOTLAND’s spending watchdog has called for the development of a comprehensive drugs and alcohol plan amid warnings about data gaps and a lack of transparency in funding.

Audit Scotland told SNP ministers that amid Scotland’s spiraling drug-related death crisis, ‘progress in addressing these challenges has been slow’, while there has been ‘a lack of dynamism and leadership” on the part of the Scottish Government.

Scotland is the drug death capital of Europe with 1,339 people killed in 2020, while 1,190 died from alcohol alone. The Scottish Government has committed £250million in additional funding to try to book the trend.

But in a stark new report, the public body pointed out that “overall funding for alcohol and drug partnerships has declined over several years”, but said that in April 20201, “it returned to little close to where it was six years ago in terms of cash flow, but with no real increase in funding”.

The document warns that “greater focus is needed on addressing the root causes of drug and alcohol addiction and breaking the cycle of multi-generational damage in communities.”

He adds: The Scottish Government needs to set out a clear integrated plan for how the additional investment can be used most effectively and demonstrate how it improves outcomes.

“Good quality, frequent and timely data will be crucial to support clear performance measurement and public reporting.”

The report urged the Scottish Government to use existing monitoring, together with the recommended plan to “assess the cost-effectiveness of funding drug and alcohol services and the level of investment in prevention needed to obtain maximum profit”.

The SNP government should also demonstrate the impact of its policies by using “clear measurement and public reporting”, as well as addressing “discrepancies” in the publication of data.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said: “We have recently seen more dynamism and leadership on drug and alcohol abuse from the Scottish Government.

“But it is still difficult to see what impact the policy has on people living in the most deprived areas, where long-standing inequalities persist.

“Data on drugs and alcohol is not good enough, and there is a lack of transparency on how money is spent and allocated.

“The Scottish Government must set out an integrated plan, with clear measures showing how extra spending is being used to reduce the tragic loss of life we ​​have seen over the past decade.”

Tory drugs spokeswoman Sue Webber said the report was ‘completely damning’ for the Scottish Government, adding: ‘This report clearly shows that the SNP’s current strategies to help people struggling with addiction just don’t work.”

Professor Angela Thomas OBE, Director of Heritage and Libraries at the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, said: “Drug-related harm continues to be a major public health issue in Scotland and the College is committed to working with interested stakeholders to resolve this.

“We note in the Audit Scotland report the limitations of data on current drug and alcohol spending. We agree that, from a transparency point of view, it would be useful if the expenditure data were clearer.

“We welcome the steps taken by the Scottish Government and the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership to deliver a new service for safer drinking – which is to be rolled out to other parts of Scotland if successful. We also welcomed the deployment of naloxone, a potentially life-saving drug.

“The college has called for a series of actions on drug-related deaths – including safe drinking facilities, reviewing the decriminalization of drug possession and rolling out a drug-assisted treatment program. heroin across Scotland.

“We are pleased with the progress made towards these goals, although there is still a long way to go before the drug death crisis is brought under control. Anything that could accelerate transformative drug and alcohol policies would be welcomed by the college.

Scottish Labour’s drugs policy spokeswoman Claire Baker said: “This stark report calls for urgent action to provide a more strategic public health response to the crisis of drug-related deaths and alcohol with which we are confronted.

“The SNP has had 15 years to address the issues raised in this report and provide the accountability, transparency and data we need – but they have failed.”

She added: “It is not enough to simply undo the cuts the SNP has inflicted on services over the years – we must transform and improve them, using all the powers in our arsenal.

“We need a real public health plan and response that will not only save lives, but get people the help they need, when they need it, so we can tackle inequality. and help everyone lead a fulfilling life.”

A Scottish government spokeswoman welcomed the report, acknowledging that Audit Scotland had expressed “some concerns”.

She said: “As the report acknowledges, the Scottish Government is investing significant leadership and investment in the national mission to improve and save lives, at the heart of which is ensuring everyone can access treatment and recovery. that suit him.

“We are investing record sums in the provision of services to combat the effects of alcohol and drug consumption. In 2021/22 we have provided the first additional £50m of National Mission funding, which will invest an additional £250m over the term of parliament to improve outcomes for people affected by drugs, as well as their families and communities. ”

“We are also exploring the evidence around alcohol management programs and welcome the opportunity to contribute to the operation of the model piloted in Glasgow by Simon Community Scotland and its evaluation.”

“The report highlights the need for better and more up-to-date data to track progress.”

She added: “In December 2021, the Minister for Drugs Policy announced a new investment of £1.1million in public health surveillance projects to improve our real-time understanding of harm to to enable better and faster responses.

“We will shortly be announcing a target starting April 1 that will increase the number of people in protective treatment for problematic drug use. We are also working with Public Health Scotland (PHS) to improve alcohol treatment data, including the development of the PHS monitoring system.

Research from Public Health Scotland published today indicated that cross-border purchases of alcohol are minimal given the minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland.

The research found that this is unlikely to occur on a scale that would significantly affect alcohol consumption at the population level or impact the intended outcomes and goals of the MUP.

Helen Chung Patterson, Public Health Intelligence Adviser at Public Health Scotland, said: “Research published today shows that while cross-border shopping does occur, the scale of it is small compared to people’s shopping behaviors. the Scottish population as a whole.

“One of the strengths of this report is that it allows us to paint a picture of cross-border alcohol purchasing behavior from multiple angles. We examined data on retail sales and alcohol licensing near the border, drawn from qualitative interviews with retailers, collected customer survey data, and explored factors affecting cross-border purchases in person and in line.

When several different methods produce broadly similar results, as is the case with the report published today, it increases confidence in the results.

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