Ninety per cent of people in Scotland who start treatment for a drug or alcohol problem are waiting three weeks or less, according to figures from IDS Scotland. The Scottish Government’s deadline for achieving the three-week target under the HEAT (Health improvement, Efficiency, Access to services and Treatment) initiative was March 2013.
The statistics, which relate to people who started their first treatment between April and June this year, were ‘a tribute to the work done by alcohol and drugs partnerships, health boards, charitable organisations, volunteers, families, and many others’, said community safety minister Roseanna Cunningham. ‘In 2007 we inherited waiting times of over a year and have turned that into a maximum three-week wait, nine months ahead of our target.’
The figures represented ‘a great achievement by services in ensuring that access to help is available as early as possible,’ said Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) director David Liddell.
‘We know that often levels of motivation to seek help among problem drug users can fluctuate, and it is therefore crucial that if people do come forward for help it is available straight away. We also know that this is only the start of a recovery journey which can be long and very challenging. So we not only need services which are easily accessible but also services which can build a long-term therapeutic relationship and respond to people as individuals – the challenge is to ensure quality and accessibility.’
However there was ‘still more that can and will be done,’ said Cunningham. Recent figures recorded more drug-related deaths for Scotland in 2011 than in any previous year, and an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year (DDN, September, page 4). Methadone was ‘implicated in, or potentially contributed to’ 47 per cent of the deaths, which – although it was unclear how many of those who died had actually been prescribed the substitute medication – has led to stories and editorials in parts of the Scottish press critical of substitute prescribing (see Media Savvy, page 7) as well as calls for a parliamentary inquiry.
Quarterly drug and alcohol treatment waiting times figures for April to June 2012 available at www.isdscotland.org