Dundee Drugs Commission publishes investigation findings and calls for leadership to promote change

A Commission set up to investigate the root causes behind a rise in drug-related deaths in Dundee, has published its findings today.

The ‘Responding to Drug Use with Kindness, Compassion and Hope’ report, delivered to the Dundee Partnership, found a system of treatment and support which it describes as ‘fractured’ and ‘not fit-for-purpose’.

As a result, it contains 16 recommendations which it is hoped, if implemented, would improve service provision for those who are currently experiencing a substance use problem in Dundee and work towards reducing the toll of drug-related deaths in the city.

The first suite of recommendations are focused around the need for cultural change across drug treatment services, related disciplines and communities of Dundee, and changes in local systems that will help facilitate such cultural change.

These include calling for the Dundee Partnership to take real leadership of the issue; the elimination of stigma towards people with a drug problem; meaningful involvement of people with a drug problem; equal accountability for statutory and third sector services; and attention to continuous improvement.

The second set of recommendations is concerned with the provision of drug treatment and support services in Dundee.

These include the provision of a choice of treatment and support delivered through a new ‘whole system’ model of care; prioritising access, retention, quality of care and the safety of those using services; a ‘no unplanned discharges’ policy; optimised Opiate Substitution Therapy (OST); psychological treatments; assertive outreach; involvement of primary care and shared care models; refreshing the community pharmacy model for OST; and full integration of substance use and mental health services and support.

The third group of recommendations is concerned with a wider understanding of the causes and effects of drug use in Dundee.

These include addressing the root causes of drug problems; gender-sensitive approaches to service planning; and attending to the intergenerational nature of substance use problems through proactive support for parents.

Chair of the Commission, Robert Peat, called for all services in Dundee to work together to make the necessary changes.

“The problems of the past must be left behind, and a culture of openness, honesty, respect and trust must be central to the Partnership as it takes forward this work.

“One of our key recommendations focuses on leadership and it is the collective leadership in the City which must now show the determination to stick with what will be a difficult task over the coming months and years ahead.

“Our recommendations also focus on treatment and support, drug related deaths and mental health. We heard heart breaking testimony from families and friends bereaved by drug related deaths. Every life is precious and every death matters. These thoughts have guided our work.”

Scottish Drugs Forum welcomes the publication of the Commission’s report and its recommendations for improving service provision in Dundee. The current service provision is unacceptable and leads to both unnecessary suffering and, tragically, deaths amongst some of the most vulnerable people in Scotland.

Scottish Drugs Forum will work with others in Dundee to deliver the radical changes required if we are to address the issues identified in the Report.

The situation in Dundee is not wholly unique. For a range of reasons, both mainstream services and specialist drug services in Scotland have struggled to meet the needs of people who have a drug problem and to support them adequately. There are lessons in the Report for service providers and commissioners across Scotland.  We would encourage them to read and reflect on the Report’s findings and recommendations and we look forward to engaging with them to improve service provision and outcomes.

Click here to view the report.

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