Waiting times for drug and alcohol abuse patients soar

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WAITING times for people needing treatment for drug and alcohol misuse in the Capital have soared.

Latest figures show the percentage of patients waiting six or ten weeks for their treatment to start is around three times higher in Edinburgh and Lothian than elsewhere in Scotland.

The official statistics do show an increase in the number of people being referred for treatment, but also a dramatic worsening of the waiting times compared with the previous year.

The figures show that on March 31 this year, there were 614 people in Lothian waiting for drug or alcohol treatment; 17.1 per cent had been waiting more than six weeks and 14 per cent more than ten weeks.

That compared with the national average of 6.2 per cent waiting more than six weeks and 4.3 per cent more than ten weeks.

And the figures were significantly worse than at the same point last year, when there were 535 on Lothian’s waiting list but just 0.7 per cent had waited over six weeks and 0.2 per cent over ten weeks.

The latest figures for Edinburgh were even worse with 483 people waiting; 21.7 per cent waiting more than six weeks and 17.8 per cent over ten weeks, compared with 389 waiting last year, just 0.5 per cent over six weeks and none over ten weeks.

Edinburgh Southern SNP MSP Jim Eadie said behind the figures were people in real need of help.

He said: “Effective treatment for alcohol and drug misuse is vital to support recovery. Longer waits for these services could see those in need fall deeper into problems.

“It would appear that part of the reason for the increase in the waiting time in Edinburgh may be due to the fact that NHS Lothian has seen around 25 per cent more patients over the last year.

“I will be contacting the health board to urge them to review services in the city of Edinburgh, to identify any capacity and staffing issues, so that we can see rates here that are at least meeting those in the rest of the country.”

And Lothian Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said Health Secretary Shona Robison had to explain the poor figures.

She said: “These latest waiting times figures show that NHS Lothian is performing significantly worse than other health boards in Scotland.

“Moreover there’s been a deterioration in performance since this time last year. I’ll be asking the Health Secretary what her explanation is for this poor performance.”

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian said: “We recognise that those requiring treatment for drug and alcohol misuse are waiting too long. In partnership with our social care and third sector colleagues we are reviewing the way we work and discussing new models of care in a bid to address and improve our 
waiting times.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com