Funding to tackle drug deaths 'woefully inadequate'
The Scottish Drugs Death Taskforce has called for more resources to be spent fighting Scotland’s drug-related deaths problem – after calling current resource levels “woefully inadequate”.
The taskforce, which brings together partners from policing, medicine, and social work, has published its final report, aimed at tackling the nation’s drug-related deaths, which is currently the highest rate in Europe.
The 145-page report outlines 10 key principles and 20 recommendations which are underpinned by 139 actions, which call for greater funding, efforts to tackle the stigma of drug addiction, and a higher degree of responsibility for drug-related deaths in both health boards and Scottish and UK governments.
The report reads: “Our report says what needs to be said. It calls out the disgrace of Scotland’s drug related death statistics. It recognises where government and services have done well but highlights the many failures that persist. These failures put people’s lives at risk.
“A lot needs to happen for our recommendations and actions to be implemented and to be effective. Extra resource is certainly required. We welcome recent additional investment for the sector, but to bring about transformational change, much greater resource and a strong commitment to increasing system capacity are needed.”
Responding to the report, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Drug deaths are Scotland’s national shame and Nicola Sturgeon was forced to admit she took her eye off the ball. This watershed report makes it clear that can never happen again if we are to drastically reduce the tragic number of lives lost to drugs in Scotland.
“That is why it is disgraceful that Nicola Sturgeon’s is pressing ahead with plans for another divisive independence referendum next year. That is time and resources that should be spent on tackling record levels of drugs deaths right now.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Labour’s Claire Baker called for the Scottish government to meet the taskforce’s resourcing demands, and said “this report makes it clear that the status quo is not good enough”.
The report continues: “The total £140.7m funding for alcohol and drugs represented 0.8 per cent of the health and sport budget in 2021/22. The most recent prevalence rate for those with problem drug use is 1.62 per cent of the population, although this figure focuses solely on problem opioid and benzodiazepine use and does not capture the prevalence of other drug types.
“The £140.7m funding is for alcohol and drugs. The prevalence of possible dependence on alcohol is significantly higher. It is clear, therefore, that demand for services far outstrips the supply of funding.
“It is for this reason that we have concluded that the current level of funding is woefully inadequate for this level of public health emergency.”
The report adds: “The First Minster has publicly recognised that her government ‘took their eye off the ball’. The question now is whether the government will provide targeted funding to enable services to deliver transformational change – not a return to the funding of the past, but an ambitious and radical commitment to making people’s lives better.”