We have provided twenty overarching recommendation to deal with Scotland’s unique challenge.
The recommendations and actions are shaped by our work over the past three years, which had three high-level areas of focus:
1. Lived/living experience
People with lived and living experience must be at the heart of the response to drug-related deaths. All responses to problem substance use must be coproduced or co-developed with them as they are central to the changes outlined. We recognise that the needs and views of those with living experience may be different to the needs and views of those with lived experience and therefore will need tailored approaches to their inclusion. It is critical that those with living experience have the support they need and that barriers to their recovery are removed. The knowledge and skills of those with lived experience should be utilised to their full potential.
Families must be involved in the process wherever possible, and steps should be taken to embed family-inclusive practice into all aspects of the sector’s work. This means services should start with a presumption of family involvement. Family members must be part of the solution to the drug-deaths crisis. They have been active contributors to the development of the Taskforce recommendations and action points and must continue to be involved in the development of the response to this public health emergency. It is also critical that families have access to meaningful support that is not dependent on their loved one’s treatment.
3. Leadership and accountability
Clear, decisive and accountable leadership is needed to deliver the Taskforce recommendations and ensure that the National Mission is effective in improving and saving lives. While the First Minister and Minister for Drugs Policy are rightly accountable at national level for drug-related deaths and harms, there is a need for clear lines of accountability at local level, with chief officers from the local Chief Officers Group ultimately assuming similar accountability locally. Chief executives of organisations in alcohol and drug partnerships (ADPs) must be responsible for their organisation’s engagement and delivery.
4. No wrong door and holistic support
Local and national leadership should ensure that the principle of no wrong door is at the heart of a new whole-systems approach. This means that individuals are never turned away, or passed from service to service, or told that their treatment is conditional on another treatment. It should be the responsibility of services to join up support, not the individual to develop and navigate their own care plan.
5. Early intervention
The Scottish Government should prioritise intervention at an earlier stage, tackling the root causes of drug dependency. Links between work on poverty, structural inequality, education, children and young people and work on drug policy should be clearer.
6. National Specification
The Scottish Government should develop a National Specification outlining the key parts of the treatment and recovery system that should be available in every local area, ensuring it also delivers on the principles of quality, choice, access and parity of treatment with other health conditions.
7. Funding fit for a public health emergency
The Taskforce is clear that while the increase in funding is welcome, it does not go far enough to deliver transformational change. Funding must be increased, targeted to where it is needed most and monitored effectively, and should foster collaboration across Government and local services. Funding should also be committed in a long-term, sustainable manner that is ring-fenced to guarantee it is spent where intended. Some services are better funded centrally and delivered either regionally or nationally. As part of the National Specification, the Scottish Government should outline the services it will commission nationally, ensuring that all areas can access the services they need.
8. Standards, guidance and inspection
All services must be appropriately regulated, with standards and guidance developed, and should be subject to regular inspection to ensure safe, effective, accessible and high-quality services. The Scottish Government should work with Healthcare Improvement Scotland to expand the Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards to encompass all aspects of the National Specification and create overarching treatment and recovery standards.
9. Public health approach in the justice system
As part of the implementation of the Scottish Government’s new Justice Vision, the Scottish Government should make key changes to fully integrate a person-centred, trauma-informed public health approach to drug use in the justice system. Structured pathways for supporting individuals with problem drug use throughout their justice journey should be developed, making full use of critical intervention points and ensuring that people leave the justice system better supported and in better health than when they entered.
10. National stigma action plan
National stigma action plan The Scottish Government should develop and rapidly implement a national stigma action plan, co-produced with people with lived, living and family experience and built on the Taskforce’s strategy, which sets deliverable actions for addressing stigma.
11. National outcomes framework, strategy and funding plan
The Scottish Government should publish a national outcomes framework and strategy to underpin the National Mission. This should include a funding plan that clearly outlines how the funding links to the national objectives. It should also include the drivers and indicators of the Mission, as well as a detailed monitoring and evaluation plan. This national framework should be used to create local outcomes frameworks and evaluation plans by ADPs and services.
The Scottish Government should ensure that data-sharing is no longer a barrier to the delivery of services. Guidance and/or an open letter should be developed with the Information Commissioner’s Office on information-sharing, linking records and ensuring that all partners have standard operating procedures and information-sharing agreements in place.
13. Workforce action plan
The Scottish Government should develop and rapidly implement a workforce action plan for the drug and alcohol sector to ensure the workforce is supported, well-trained and well-resourced.
14. Availability of information
Transparent and accessible information is critical not only for effective delivery and enhancing the experience of people who engage with services, but also for scrutiny and trust. The Scottish Government should work with Public Health Scotland to review the information collected and optimise public health surveillance to further develop the early warning system. It should create a single platform for individuals accessing information on drugs, services and monitoring that should enable local areas to be held to account.
15. Specific populations
ADPs and services must recognise where particular groups (such as women and young people) have specific needs and face additional barriers. They should develop pathways tailored to these groups to ensure they can access the support they need when they need it.
16. Drug-death review groups
The Scottish Government should produce guidance on the operation of drug-death review groups, setting the expectation that these groups review every death to learn lessons and that these are reported directly to the Chief Officers Group along with defined actions.
17. Digital innovation
The Scottish Government and wider local leadership should embrace digital innovation, finding ways to improve how people access health, care and support at the point of need.
18. Joint working
The Scottish Government and ADPs should support the improvement of partnership-working across the sector, including between statutory and third-sector services and with recovery communities. The Scottish Government should work to break down silos between directorates, better aligning key priorities.
19. UK drug law
The UK Government should immediately begin the process of reviewing the law to enable a public health approach to drugs to be implemented. The Scottish Government should continue to engage with the UK Government to support these changes. In the interim, the Scottish Government should do everything in its power to implement a public health approach.
20. Taskforce legacy
There must be a clearly defined plan from the Scottish Government, within six months, outlining how it will implement these recommendations and how the legacy work of the Taskforce will be incorporated into the National Mission to ensure nothing is lost.
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