Rise in number of Scots waiting six weeks or more for drug and alcohol treatment

The number of people waiting six weeks or more to start their first treatment for drug or alcohol has risen by around five percent in a year, new figures show.

The latest NHS Scotland Information Services Division (ISD) statistics show that by December 31 last year, a total of 2,547 people were waiting to start treatment.

Of these, 364 (14.3%) had been waiting more than six weeks – double the three week or under target – up from 236 (9.4%) at the same time the previous year.

A total of 10,550 people began treatment between October and December 2018 and 93.9% were seen in three weeks or under – meeting the Scottish Government’s 90% target.

The rate is higher in prisons, where 910 people started treatment in the final three months of 2018 and 97.8% waited three weeks or under.

Performance varies across health boards, with 10 meeting the 90% in three weeks or under target.

Three boards – NHS Grampian, NHS Highland and NHS Lothian – did not meet the standards.

NHS Shetland’s data was excluded due to “non-compliance”, the NHS ISD report said.

Scottish Labour Health spoke Monica Lennon said: “Scotland is experiencing a drug and alcohol crisis that is ending thousands of lives each year and costing our economy billions of pounds.

“People affected by substance misuse are facing too many barriers and these latest figures confirm that.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Alex-Cole Hamilton said: “Extended waits for those in urgent need can have serious consequences not only for them, but also for those close to them.”

Conservative Annie Wells added: “Someone battling these issues simply can’t wait for several weeks to go by without getting some kind of support.”

Public Health Minister Joe FitzPatrick said: “I welcome that the standard for drug and alcohol treatment waiting times continues to be met on a national basis with the majority of health boards exceeding it.

“The Scottish Government has invested over £746 million to tackle problem alcohol and drug use since 2008, with much of that provided via NHS health boards to Alcohol and Drug Partnerships for investment in local prevention, treatment and recovery support services.

“In addition, the new drug and alcohol treatment strategy is being backed with funding of an additional £20 million each year.

“The Scottish Government Alcohol and Drug Partnership Support Team continues to engage with the areas which have not met the standard for this quarter.”

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