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Reduction in waiting times for drug treatment

Monday, October 12th, 2009 Reduction in waiting times for drug treatment

There has been a dramatic improvement in the waiting times for drug addicts in Scotland to receive treatment over the past three months.

It is claimed that every person seeking treatment for their addiction in the Lothian’s now waits no longer than 12 months to begin the process; a stark contrast to earlier this year when a third of addicts were having to wait over one year.

The improvements in the service have been welcomed and health chiefs say that they will continue to work hard and meet future targets.

Dr Fiona Watson, NHS Lothian’s clinical lead in the Lothian Substance Misuse Directorate, said: “We have worked hard to improve the quality of data recording and also with partners in the addiction field on achieving the eight-week referral to treatment target set by the Scottish Government for December 2010.

“We recognise the challenges involved in this but are confident that we can achieve both this target and the three-week referral to treatment target set for 2013.”

Statistics published by ISD Scotland revealed that up until the end of June there were 669 people who had completed treatment for their addiction in Edinburgh. Of those, 0.7 per cent had to wait more than six months and 50 had to wait more than three months.

At present there are thought to be around 400 people waiting to begin treatment for their addiction, of whom only two have been waiting for more than six months. Compare this to the previous assessment, where 200 people were waiting for longer than a year, the improvements are quite clear to see.

Counsellor Ewan Aitken, who sits on the Edinburgh’s health and social care committee, said getting care for drug users would also reduce drug-related crime and resources.

She said: “The key here is that faster treatment isn’t important for the people themselves, but for everyone in society. The aim has to be immediate treatment. That way we save a lot of hassle, a lot of grief and a lot of money.”

There is no-one waiting longer than a year for treatment in East Lothian, but in West Lothian and Midlothian there are thought to be around 15 people waiting beyond a twelve-month period.

While the Scottish Government doesn’t have any formal targets for health boards to meet, NHS Lothian has outlined its determination to begin treatment on every drug addict within 18 weeks of first appointment by December.

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