Barriers remain to accessing residential rehab, says Public Health Scotland 

There are still barriers to accessing residential rehab in Scotland, according to a Public Health Scotland (PHS) report. 

Lonely house on a ploughed field indicating how residential rehab is hard to access
Only a quarter of referrers thought residential rehab was easily accessible

Perceptions of residential rehabilitation among referrers is the first evaluation of the Scottish Government’s five-year residential rehabilitation programme, which was launched in 2021 to improve access to residential facilities. While there was some evidence of progress, ‘barriers to accessing residential rehab do still exist’, the document concludes. 

Bed capacity has increased by 8 per cent and the last financial year saw more than 800 rehab placements approved for public funding. However, only a quarter of referrers thought residential rehab was easily accessible, and less than a fifth of people who used drugs ‘felt reasonably well informed’ about residential provision. Alongside structural barriers like long waiting times or lack of space were lack of time or resources to help clients prepare for rehab and lack of facilities near to where clients lived, the document states. 

Other barriers identified included lack of suitable provision for people with caring responsibilities or mental health issues, long waiting times for detox, and concerns about aftercare, says PHS. The agency will publish its final report on the programme in 2026. 

In early 2021 the Scottish Government pledged £250m over five years to tackle the country’s drug deaths crisis ( The most recent drug-related death figures showed a fall of 21 per cent on the previous year, but the number is still almost four times higher than 20 years ago. The alcohol-related death total in 2021, meanwhile, was the country’s highest for 13 years, with death rates five times higher in the country’s most deprived areas ( 

Ruth Glassborow
Ruth Glassborow

‘This report is the first output of our independent evaluation of the Scottish Government residential rehabilitation programme – we hope its baseline findings can support important discussions on residential rehabilitation in Scotland,’ said director of population health and wellbeing at PHS, Ruth Glassborow. ‘Our report found evidence suggesting some progress towards increasing access to individuals, however, there are still significant barriers that people face. There is also a risk of uneven progress across different parts of the country which may exacerbate existing health inequalities.’

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