Dundee Drugs Commission Report

Dundee Drugs Commission Report Image

The Dundee Partnership has today (Friday August 16) taken delivery of the findings of the Dundee Drugs Commission.

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

A meeting will take place in the near future between members of the commission and the Dundee Partnership to discuss the way forward following the publication of the report and its recommendations.

Robert Peat, Chair of the Dundee Drugs Commission, said: “Since starting our work in May 2018, the Commission has heard from or spoken to over a thousand people either directly or indirectly affected by the issue of drug use in Dundee.

“I am pleased to present our report to the Dundee Partnership. I believe we have completed a robust analysis and our report has 16 challenging recommendations for the Dundee Partnership to address. In so doing we feel that the situation in Dundee can be turned around and that there will be a reduction in the number of drug related deaths in the city.

“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.

“We found a system of treatment and support which we describe as fractured. All of the services in Dundee must work with a concerted effort to implement 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.

“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.

“We see our work linking with the Dundee Fairness Commission and the Independent Inquiry into Mental Health Services in Tayside.

“There can be many complex factors which result in a person becoming involved in drug use and it is with a range of effective support available and the delivery of that support with kindness, compassion and hope that things will improve that will make the required difference.

“The Partnership in Dundee and the wider community now have the opportunity to show this compassion, kindness and instil hope for those in the city whose lives are affected by the use of drugs.”

Dundee City Council leader John Alexander stresses that action will be taken. 

He said: “Every death is a tragedy that is felt deeply by families and communities across Dundee.

“The situation outlined by recent publication of Scottish drug death statistics has been quite rightly referred to as a public health emergency.

“We cannot go on this way and we have to make radical changes.

“That is why I believe that the report from the Dundee Drugs Commission is a turning point for our city to prevent drugs from taking such a heavy toll in the future

“It was vital that the commission looked across the country for other perspectives and also listened closely to those local people and families whose lives have been blighted by drug use.

“We have heard powerful stories about their experiences, the lessons we need to learn and what has to change.

“I believe that if we work together, we can create a strong and successful system that recognizes the rights of every person to be treated with respect and dignity, and to provide the support they need to complete their recovery.

“The Dundee Partnership will be asking the Scottish and UK Governments and also Professor Catriona Matheson’s Drug Deaths Taskforce to consider the changes to legislation, funding and policies proposed by the Commission. We have already contacted Professor Matheson to share our learning and to offer to support the task force in any way we can.

“I believe that there is real scope for us to work with the Scottish Government to develop new and more effective ways to treat and support people in Dundee.

“Moves have already been made to improve the situation in the city, with the appointment of a new independent chair of the Alcohol and Drug Partnership and measures taken to improve services among them.

“We cannot sit by and let more people die. This report is a wake-up call for everyone and shows us a new way forward. This will not be an easy task but we are    determined to make a difference and will show the leadership across the partnership to achieve better outcomes for people in this city.”

Chief Executive of NHS Tayside Grant Archibald said: “We welcome today’s report and would like to thank the Commission members and all the individual contributors who have provided their professional insights and personal experiences.

“We all recognise that the circumstances which lead to an individual using drugs are often complex.

“That is why we need a new approach to care and support which connects all of the organisations involved in a more coordinated way, one which puts individuals and communities at the centre of shaping services for the future and together builds a whole system support network.

“The Commission’s report sets out how we can move forward to deliver better outcomes and save lives.

“As a collective leadership team, all partners in the city are committed to making the changes which will improve the wellbeing of Dundee communities.”

The Commission has produced a report, Responding to Drug Use with Kindness, Compassion and Hope, which details a number of key messages under the themes Leadership, Drug Deaths, Treatment and Mental Health.

Sixteen recommendations have been made, some of them immediate actions and others longer-term pieces of work to be delivered across a period of five years.

They include improving leadership, challenging stigma towards people who use drugs and their families and a new ‘system’ model of care to deliver services currently offered by the Integrated Substance Misuse Services (ISMS).

David Lynch, Dundee Health and Social Care Partnership chief officer, said: “We acknowledge and welcome the findings of the Drugs Commission in relation to the Integrated Substance Misuse Service.

“As a health and social care partnership, we are committed to providing the best possible services to vulnerable people in Dundee.

“The work done by the Commission will help us to do that, and we will consider its findings carefully alongside the improvement plan which is already starting to make a difference.

“We are also working to recruit key staff and to better engage with our partners and service users. All of this is about delivering better outcomes for those affected by drugs.

“We are grateful to the Commissioners for acknowledging where our services are working well for clients, and particularly for noting the excellent work being done by front line staff.

“Day after day, they are providing lifeline services to some of our most vulnerable citizens, often in very challenging circumstances.

"We also appreciate the input from those directly affected by substance misuse who assisted the commission in their work. Their input has been invaluable."

Simon Little, independent chair of the Dundee Alcohol and Drug Partnership (DADP), said: “The Commission has identified historic weaknesses in leadership, accountability and governance and they are clear that significant and sustained improvement in these areas will be essential if the city is to reverse the trend of rising drug deaths and high prevalence rates for substance misuse.

“Weaknesses in operational leadership and delivery were manifest across several organisations and individual services, but the DADP did not adequately fulfil its strategic planning remit, nor did it effectively scrutinise and hold to account its partner members.

“Establishing the Dundee Drug Commission and appointing an independent chair of the DADP signals a willingness to be more open and self-critical. Whilst these are positives, the real test for the people of Dundee will be whether there is sustained improvement in services and a more systemic approach taken to prevention.

“Using the Commission’s recommendations, and under guidance from the Dundee Partnership, the DADP must now rapidly reassess its strategic priorities and ensure these are translated into practical actions, that partners deliver at a pace that reflects the urgency of the situation.

“Proposals that will improve the functioning of the DADP should be approved very soon; the membership will be strengthened, lines of accountability clarified, and structures simplified. There will also be an expectation that those with lived experience, carers and communities will be listened to, respected and offered genuine opportunities to influence decisions.

“Specific service improvements will be the responsibility of the constituent members of the DADP, but collectively the DADP will more closely scrutinise day-to-day performance and progress against long-term goals. I believe these plans will begin to address the Commission’s concerns regarding leadership.

“I have only been in post a short time, but senior officials and elected members have been candid, insightful and convincing in their desire for change.

“Tackling drug deaths is the most urgent priority and it is right that this is declared a public health emergency. Prevention is the cornerstone of a public health approach. Consequently, it will be essential to address those underlying issues that are linked to high levels of substance misuse - poverty and disadvantage, adverse childhood experiences, poor mental health, homelessness etc.

“To comprehensively tackle these, Dundee must continue to look to the Scottish and UK Governments for assistance. The Scottish Government’s investment in Housing First is a welcome example of what can be done. I share the Commission’s hope that Dundee could, with ambition and leadership, demonstrate fresh approaches from which many other communities could benefit.”

Police Scotland Divisional Commander for Tayside, Chief Superintendent Andrew Todd, said: “We welcome the report from the Dundee Drugs Commission and are committed to working closely with partners, both locally and nationally, to address substance use in our communities.

“Police Scotland is committed to acting on information in order to disrupt the supply of harmful substances into our communities and will continue to work in partnership with other agencies to ensure that those who become known through enforcement activity are provided with the support they need in order to deliver better outcomes for individuals, their families and our communities.”

The Dundee Partnership is made up of representatives from key local public agencies, academic institutions and representatives of the business, voluntary and community sectors. 

It pools the strengths of all partners to deliver a vision for the city which improves people’s lives.

Among its key priorities is tackling the root causes of social and economic exclusion, creating a community which is healthy, safe, confident, educated and empowered.The Partnership is co-chaired by Grant Archibald and David Martin, chief executive of Dundee City Council.

The report is available online here.

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