Experts have expressed some concerns over the rate at which changes are being made to Dundee drug services as the city fights to reduce the number of deaths related to substance misuse.
The Dundee Alcohol and Drugs Partnership (ADP) has presented its long-awaited action plan to elected members in the city, which outlines how it aims to improve city services so vulnerable people are given the help they need with addiction and other issues.
The “ambitious” plan – first trailed for members of the Dundee Partnership in October last year – is made up of a dozen goals the ADP hopes to achieve over the next two years.
Among the more immediate key priorities are:
- A commitment to respond to all near-fatal overdoses within 72 hours by this May
- Offer same-day prescribing of heroin substitutes, where appropriate, by March
- Implementing lessons on drug misuse in Dundee schools April
- Recruiting volunteers with experience to help people to recover from addition by December
While the action plan has been welcomed the Dundee Drugs Commission has expressed some concern over the pace at which change is taking place.
The commission unveiled its findings in August – almost six months ago – but preliminary figures suggest as many as 70 people lost their lives to drugs in Dundee last year.
Robert Peat, chairman of the commission, said: “I would have liked to have seen some things change immediately but you need to take time to get everyone on board. You need commitment and leadership to step up.
“It could be happening quicker – but it takes time to understand what’s needed in Dundee and then get the partnership commitment to work together on what can be achieved. The main thing is that it is happening at all.
“Unfortunately it’s clear the number of drug-related deaths will be more than we had last year – but I think we have got to see the changes being implemented and we’ll see that difference being made.”
Dr Peat spoke after the Scottish Government’s national Drug Death Taskforce visited Dundee to learn more about the commission’s findings.
Days before, councillors heard the ADP – which runs the city’s contentious Integrated Substance Misuse Unit, responsible for the majority of treatment services – is to open itself up to a greater level of scrutiny than it has in the past.
It has replaced its last chair, NHS Tayside public health director Dr Drew Walker, with Simon Little, who is completely independent of any services in Dundee.
The commission is also set to have a continued role in scrutinising the work of the ADP – after Dr Peat suggested in October that it should do so – following a move by Lochee councillor Michael Marra to have its future written in stone.
Mr Marra told gathered councillors: “I would like to thank members of the commission and the administration for setting it up.
“(But) I have concerns about the rate of change – people are literally dying in the streets.
“There’s lots of talk of tests of change and reviews of processes and services but a lot of the action plan is quite impenetrable. It’s absolutely critical that we turn what we have on the action plan into what we actually need to be doing.”
Dundee City Council’s chief executive, David Martin, has acknowledged that drug deaths are “the biggest challenge facing the city – and a public health emergency”.
He said: “(The commission) have held our feet to the fire and the point I would like to make is we have tried to move at pace.
>> Keep up to date with the latest news with Evening Telegraph newsletter
A call to all of us to step up and step out, and since August that has been the case and will continue to be the case.”
Mr Little said: “Where are we now compared to (August)? It’s a fair point the councillor makes about pace of change – I believe we are moving ahead. We have absolute intent that we will move ahead with all of this. It will be revelatory, in my opinion.”