Scottish Government plans to tackle drug and alcohol misuse ‘remain complex and fragmented’, Audit Scotland report finds

The call comes after it was reported 1,339 people died from drug-related causes in Scotland in 2020 – the highest ever reported figure and the highest rate in Europe.

A recent Audit Scotland report tracks the impact the pandemic has had and the potential implications of alcohol usage over the course of the past two years.

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However, it found general progress to address challenges has been “slow” despite significant increased funding into drug and alcohol misuse services in recent years.

Auditor General Stephen Boyle said an ‘overarching’ and ‘transparent’ plan from the Scottish Government was needed.

Stephen Boyle, Auditor General for Scotland said an ‘overarching’ and ‘transparent’ plan on drug and alcohol misuse services was needed as he introduced the Audit Scotland briefing at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Audit committee on Thursday.

He said: “The Government now needs an overarching plan that clearly links spending to reduce this tragic loss of life and in the longer term more focus is needed on tackling inequalities and the root of drug and alcohol misuse.

“The arrangements Scotland has to deliver drug and alcohol services remain complex and fragmented.

“It’s not clear what the most targeted successful funding delivers in terms of improved outcomes. It is not yet clear what impact these new approaches and increased investment are having.”

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Scotland Drug Deaths: 1,339 drug-related deaths were registered in Scotland, the…

Mr Boyle suggested the plan should be “clear, transparent and measurable” and would set out what the most successful interventions are to support the delivery of improved services.

In 2009, Audit Scotland issued a report on the drug deaths in Scotland, highlighting recommendations such as a “joined-up” plan in tackling deaths among local authorities.

However, Mr Boyle said: “13 years later, we’re still as a country facing some really dreadful statistics in terms of the delivery of outcomes for problem drug and alcohol usage.”

Also acknowledging Scottish Government progress has been slow, Jillian Matthew, a senior manager at Audit Scotland, said there have been “a lot more developments and progressions from the Scottish Government in the last couple of years”.

Yet, she said it is still “a bit early to tell the impact some of these new initiatives have had” and there have been “significant delays” in the drug and alcohol information system which has been designed to help local partnerships.

More details from the Scottish Government around the increased funding are needed as Audit Scotland have not been able to “track that fully”, according to Ms Matthew.

She said: “How much of that is directed towards prevention and what the different strands of funding and how they are helping to improve outcomes, deliver some of the priorities the Government set – we’ve still not got a clear picture of how all that links together.”

However, Mr Boyle said there has been a “lack of clear transparency around some of the funding environment with which drug and alcohol services are delivered” as he highlighted the impact of the Scottish Government reduction in funding from 2016 and 2017 onwards.

Plans such as the introduction of new medication assisted treatment (MAT) standards due to be embedded across the country in April 2022 are “on track”, according to Ms Matthew.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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