Drugs Commission Two Year Review

Drugs Commission Two Year Review Image

Dundee partners are reaffirming their commitment to cut the city’s drug death toll, as the Dundee Drugs Commission delivers a review of progress on its original recommendations.

The commission met again for six months in 2021 to look at the situation two years on from the publication of its original report ‘Responding to Drug Use with Kindness Compassion and Hope’.

The specialist panel was originally set up by the Dundee Partnership as a response to an increasing number of drug-related deaths in the city.

You can download the Commission's full report and supporting evidence.

Chair of the Dundee Drugs Commission Dr Robert Peat said: “We found that the Partnership has made genuine and extensive efforts to address the drugs challenge in Dundee. However, we believe that the scale of the challenge has been greater than the Partnership anticipated. There is obviously a great deal more to do and we have concluded that the Partnership needs help to tackle this problem.

“We need to restate our original recommendations which remain valid and we have set out twelve further recommendations for the Partnership. We remain of the view that with determination, clear communications, and a willingness to work as a true partnership, particularly with the third sector and those with lived and living experience and an acceptance that support is required, then Dundee can effectively address the Public Health crisis of drug deaths. 

“This review report is entitled: Time for Kindness, Compassion and Hope. The Need for Action Two Years On. The cultural change which is required is key to success and it is now time for this to come to the fore alongside the continuing reconfiguration of services to ensure that people are provided with the time from support services to progress their recovery. It is also time for more focused, coordinated, and combined action to deal with this crisis.” 

The review report contains a number of recommendations across areas including leadership, the closure of Constitution House with Dundee Drug and Alcohol Recovery Staff transitioned out to other locations, relationships with the Third Sector and the development of a Recovery Oriented System of Care for Dundee. 

Dundee City Council Chief Executive Greg Colgan said: “I would like to acknowledge the work that has been undertaken by Dr Robert Peat and the commissioners to produce this review report for the Dundee Partnership. 

“The Partnership has achieved progress in a number of areas since the commission delivered its original report, but we are not complacent about the size of the task at hand. 

“We are now considering the recommendations of this review report and partners will meet soon to look at the way forward. 

“Local agencies leading efforts to cut the number of drugs deaths are facing a number of pressures and we will have to consider prioritisation across of number of service areas for people throughout Dundee.

“I would like to take this opportunity to praise staff for the immense efforts they have been making to turn this situation around, especially in the face of the pandemic. 

“In their front-line role they have shown creativity to help deliver services in different ways. They are so committed to their work and their contribution will be vital in ensuring further progress.” 

Following delivery of the review, the Dundee Partnership is highlighting the developments across the city that have been taken forward since the 2019 commission report.

These include:

  • The work of the Non-Fatal Overdose (NFOD) Rapid Response Team has been strengthened by additional assertive outreach staff and has recently won a national COSLA Excellence Award for 2022.
  • Development of an integrated substance use and mental health response following funding of £450,000 from the national Drug Deaths Taskforce. This will be delivered within communities, and will include crisis interventions at evenings and weekends. This would test a level of integration not yet seen in Scotland and learning will be shared across the country.  
  • A recent award of £1.6M from Scottish Government will lead to a significant expansion of Shared Care services with GP practices over the coming two years. This will increase choice for patients and improve the sustainability of services. 
  • People with lived experience have met for the first time to support and shape innovative proposals for the new Community Wellbeing Centre at a prominent location in Dundee city centre. 
  • The start of the ‘Planet Youth’ work at Baldragon Academy and St Paul’s Academy, using an Icelandic model designed to deter young people from substance use and to engage in more health living activities. 
  • Leaders of key Dundee agencies have underlined their continuing support to city efforts to tackle drug deaths and the suffering cause by substance use by publishing a collective statement of intent. 
  • Additional funding has been provided to the SafeZone Bus to provide out of hours support in local areas. 
  • Independent advocacy is also being taken forward with funding from the national Drugs Death Task Force. 
  • Establishment of the Dundee Take Home Naloxone Project, with naloxone widely available in the city
  • Production of a video stressing the importance of language to describe the issues.
  • Development of a gendered approach to help women access services alongside a commitment to keep children safe from substance use and its consequences

Vicky Irons, Chief Officer of the Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership said: “National recognition of the Non-Fatal Overdose Rapid Response Team showcases the pioneering work that we are carrying out in the city.

“We are now working to bridge the gap between mental health and substance use services and are on the way to bring people Scotland-leading approaches.

 “At this present time there are significant pressures on the Dundee Drug and Alcohol Recovery Service (DDARS) and this is leading to delays in treatment for some. Demand has risen, in part because of the pandemic. Additional measures have been put in place to accelerate assessments for treatment and a report on future actions to ensure treatment time targets are met will considered by the Alcohol and Drug Partnership.

“It would be unrealistic to expect us to achieve total transformation in a matter of months, but I am convinced that we are seeing early progress combined with a renewed determination to keep up the momentum.”

Independent chair of the Dundee Alcohol and Drugs Partnership Simon Little said: “Although there has been important progress, enormous challenges remain. We must continue to drive down drugs deaths, eradicate stigma and ensure that high quality person-centred services that treat everyone with dignity and respect are the norm.

 “We must make these essential improvements, and we can. The most recent annual figures for Drug Deaths in the City showed a fall of 21%; down from 72 to 57. I believe that was due to a much faster response to those at high risk and more joined up working. But clearly there is a long way to go.

“Major work is underway to improve how people with both substance use and mental health issues are supported; including those who are in crisis. And over the next two years services will become more community based and more GP practices will deliver shared care.”

Professor Grant Archibald, Chief Executive of NHS Tayside, said: “All agencies in the Dundee Partnership remain committed to making real improvements to the lives of people who have substance issues.  

“NHS Tayside’s Public Health Directorate has taken a significant role in progressing key programmes of work and the team is delivering new approaches and services directly to people who are experiencing issues with substance use. However, we know it is really important that services are as joined up as possible and there is a holistic approach around individuals, their families and communities in the City.   

“The Dundee Partnership is making tangible progress to ensure this happens, but we all understand there is more to be done and our teams remain determined to build on the progress achieved so far.  

“The last two years have been extremely challenging for all health and social care services and I would like to take this opportunity to commend our teams across Dundee for their extensive efforts, and also thank them for their ongoing contributions. We will continue to draw on all the experiences and learning from our response to COVID-19 where we have developed ever-closer working relationships between partners and implemented successful change at pace.”  

Chief Superintendent Phil Davison, Divisional Commander for Tayside, said: “Whilst there has been positive progress in the last couple of years, we recognise that when it comes to those with addiction issues, there are often a range of complex, health and social care factors at play and we cannot address these in isolation. 

“Nationally, we are experiencing a rise in drug-related death and Police Scotland is committed to moving forward with a public health approach, which I am equally committed to locally in Tayside, such as our continued support to the Non-Fatal Overdose Group, or our intended wider rollout of Naloxone carriage to all officers in the region. I fully support our ongoing efforts to work in collaboration to tackle drug related challenges, with a critical part of that approach being our engagement with local partners to ensure the right support is directed to the right people at the right time.”                             

Dundee Volunteer and Voluntary Action, Interim Chief Executive Officer Christina Cooper said: “We acknowledge that there continues to be positive progress to address this challenge in Dundee. 

“I am confident that we will meet the challenge through continued strong partnership working. Bringing together this experience is of great value and is paramount in moving towards a City of Recovery.”

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