FIVE of Scotland’s 13 health boards did not meet the waiting times standard for drug and alcohol treatments, despite the national target being met.

The Scottish Government wants to have 90% of people referred for help with alcohol or drug use wait no longer than three weeks for specialist treatment.

Between July and the end of September this year there were 7949 referrals, with 92.3% waiting three weeks or less.

However, performance was below 90% in Lanarkshire, Lothian, Forth Valley, Fife and Western Isles health boards.

The data from Public Health Scotland shows there were 802 referrals for prison-based services over the period, including 666 for drug use.

Drugs and Alcohol Minister Elena Whitham said: “We’re determined to do all we can to reduce drug and alcohol-related harm and are working closely with alcohol and drug partnerships and the third sector.

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“Last year, £106 million was made available to alcohol and drugs partnerships to support local and national initiatives to improve treatment.

“I’m pleased that the drug and alcohol treatment waiting times standard continues to be met nationally, with the majority of boards meeting or exceeding it.

“We will continue to engage with the [alcohol and drug partnerships] that did not achieve the target for treatment waiting times to drive performance improvements.”

Whitham also welcomed figures showing an increase in funded residential rehabilitation placements.

There were 477 placements between April and September 2023, an increase of 126 from the same period of last year.

The minister said: “While this progress is welcome, we’re determined to do more and have already allocated a £5m uplift in funding to alcohol and drug partnerships to be spent on residential rehabilitation.”

The Abbeycare Group, which runs a specialist service in Erskine, Renfrewshire said too many people are facing long waits despite the best efforts of NHS staff.

Operations director Liam Mehigan said: “Timely interventions are crucial if we are to reduce the number of people dying in Scotland due to addiction to alcohol, drugs, or a mixture of both.

“At Abbeycare, we offer specialist residential rehabilitation and detoxification services, as well as counselling, aftercare support and family support for those in recovery from drugs and alcohol addictions.

“We believe that abstinence-based rehabilitation such as Abbeycare along with specialist harm reduction services can play a crucial role in reducing the number of deaths caused by alcohol and drugs in Scotland.”

Scottish LibDems leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said extended waiting times "for those in urgent need can be a matter of life and death". 

He added: "I want to see the Scottish Government delivering radical and transformational action to help all those suffering.

"That must mean protecting the drug and alcohol budgets and supporting local authorities so that everyone can access care when they need it.”