Access to alcohol treatment in Scotland has declined by 40 per cent in ten years, according to analysis by Alcohol Focus Scotland.
The number of people starting specialist alcohol treatment fell from more than 32,500 in 2013-14 to just over 19,600 in 2021-22, according to analysis of data published by Public Health Scotland. Funding to alcohol and drugs partnerships was cut by 20 per cent – from £69.2 to £53.8m – over the same period. The drop in provision also predates any impact from COVID-19, Alcohol Focus Scotland states, as provision had already fallen by 30 per cent before the pandemic.
Although Public Health Scotland’s final report on minimum unit pricing (MUP) stated that implementation of the measure had reduced Scotland’s alcohol death rate by 13 per cent (https://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/mup-cut-alcohol-deaths-by-13-per-cent-claims-final-report/), alcohol deaths in Scotland in 2021 hit their highest level since 2008, at 1,245 (http://www.drinkanddrugsnews.com/scottish-alcohol-deaths-at-highest-level-for-13-years/).
Alcohol Focus Scotland is calling for more investment in alcohol services and recovery support, alongside an uprating of MUP and more action to restrict alcohol marketing.
‘The drop in the level of treatment in Scotland over the last ten years is shocking and deeply concerning,’ said the charity’s deputy chief executive, Laura Mahon. ‘Alcohol harm has remained high in Scotland over this time period, so this is not a question of whether people’s need for support has reduced, but rather that they are finding it more difficult to access the support they need. This drop in treatment coincides with a period when budgets for alcohol and drug partnerships were cut. At the time, many of us feared that those cuts would affect service provision and it now appears that is the case. The fact that this drop in support is only now coming to light is also of real concern. The Scottish Government urgently needs to invest in alcohol treatment – as they have in drug services – and to monitor provision to ensure these vital services are maintained.’