Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston has questioned the Scottish Government on what he called was a “postcode lottery” in how those in custody with addictions are supported.
The Scottish Conservative MSP used the example of NHS Grampian which he said was operating a different policy to other health authorities across Scotland when it came to providing opiate replacements for those receiving methadone.
Mr Halcro Johnston pressed the Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf on the subject earlier today (Thursday 8th October) after he had been contacted by a constituent concerned about the impact of the policy in the NHS Grampian area.
Questioning Mr Yousaf, the Conservative MSP said: “NHS Grampian, which covers Moray in my region, have said that they will not provide opiate replacements to people in custody. That is different to much of Scotland, and apparently runs contrary to wider NHS guidance.
“Regardless of individual views on such prescribing - does the Cabinet Secretary think there is a need for a national approach to support for addicts in custody?”
In his response the Cabinet Secretary said he would look into the matter although also expressing the view that health authorities had to respond to local requirements.
Speaking later, Mr Halcro Johnston said: “There is a debate to be had on the appropriate treatment of addicts who find themselves in police custody, but it seems strange that on a point so fundamental as to whether to prescribe an opiate substitute, there should be such profound differences depending on the location of the police custody suite involved.
“I am not convinced by the Justice Secretary’s argument that there could be a local context that would justify a different approach on an issue like this. This postcode lottery in how someone is treating must be confusing for the police, for the health professionals involved and those being held in custody.
“And it is important to remember that the person in custody may be being held for a variety of reasons, may not go on to be charged or convicted of any offence and, of course - if receiving methadone - are trying to address their own addictions issues.
“We know that Scotland has an enormous challenge to deal with when it comes to drugs misuse. But overcoming that challenge is not made any easier by a differentiated approach across the country and by leaving those in custody without the support they need.
“I hope the Justice Secretary will recognise this and look to ensure a clearer, more common approach across Scotland”.