Scottish Parliament debates alcohol and drug-related deaths

The Scottish Parliament has today (20 December 2017) debated alcohol and drug-related deaths in Scotland on the back of a motion lodged by Labour MSP Monica Lennon.*

We worked closely with members specialising in substance misuse and provided a briefing ahead of the debate to inform MSPs of pharmacists’ role in supporting people with substance misuse, outlining key recommendations for their consideration:

  • The refresh of the Road to Recovery strategy must be used to gather evidence of successful initiatives that keep people in treatment. It must share best practice involving both health, social care and local authorities for a holistic approach to recovery. Harm reduction interventions are essential in reducing risk and therefore should be given a higher priority than in the current strategy.
  • As the profession most commonly in contact with people prescribed opioid substitution therapies, community pharmacy should be consulted and involved as a key member of the integrated team to maximise patient outcomes.
  • Services, such as the Chronic Mediation Service in community pharmacy, should be used to monitor and treat long term conditions to enable the physical health needs of people who use drugs and/or alcohol to be integrated into treatment plans.
  • Government should take a lead role in influencing key initiatives/services designed to reduce harm. Current priorities include the re-instatement of an Injecting Equipment Provision (IEP) service in Glasgow Central Station and a solution to enable the proposed injecting room for Glasgow city centre to progress.
  • The community model for testing and treating blood borne viruses should be expanded.
  • A national programme of delivery for alcohol brief interventions by community pharmacy should be considered.

Dr John McAnaw, Chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board, observed the proceedings and noted: “While members acknowledged the briefings received, the debate left no time for in-depth consideration of proposed solutions. I will therefore write to the Minister for Public Health, Aileen Campbell MSP, in early 2018 to request a meeting to discuss the development of the forthcoming re-fresh in more detail to ensure pharmacy can play its full role in supporting the new strategy.”

*Full wording of the motion:

Alcohol and Drug-related Deaths

That the Parliament understands that 1,265 alcohol-related deaths, and a record 867 drug-related deaths, were registered in 2016, which were 10% and 23% more respectively than in 2015 and represented a combined annual increase of 276 deaths; notes that of the total 2,132 deaths that year, 715 of the people were under 44; recognises that Scotland’s alcohol death rate is one-and-a-half times that of the rest of the UK and that its drug deaths rate is two-and-a-half times; expresses sympathy to the bereaved families and friends of the people who have died, in so many cases at such a young age; acknowledges that stigma around addiction can make it difficult for people to seek the help they need; believes that alcohol and drug-related deaths are preventable, and notes the view that the refreshing of the alcohol and drug strategies presents unique opportunities to that ensure that an evidence-based approach can be put in place to reduce the number of deaths in Central Scotland and across the country.

Image © Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body