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Forensic labs forced to outsource drug driving tests due to high demand

SPA Forensic Services is having to ‘outsource’ some of the blood tests in suspected drug driving cases because of ‘high levels of demand’ (Danny Lawson/PA)
SPA Forensic Services is having to ‘outsource’ some of the blood tests in suspected drug driving cases because of ‘high levels of demand’ (Danny Lawson/PA)

A “totally unacceptable” level of drug driving has resulted in police forensic services having to send tests to private labs, as they cannot meet demand.

A report prepared for watchdogs at the Scottish Police Authority told how demand for “drug-driving analysis remains significantly higher” than Forensic Services have capacity for.

With cases at the “elevated level”, the Scottish Government approved additional funding in November, which will allow “around 900 cases to be outsourced”

Fiona Douglas, the director of SPA Forensic Services, said: “There continues to be a significant challenge with regards to high levels of demand for Section 5A drug driving toxicology analysis, which has remained high since the introduction of the legislation in Scotland in 2019.”

Ms Douglas said the service, together with Police Scotland and the Crown Office, was working on “a long-term sustainable solution” to this.

But SPA board member Tom Halpin condemned  the “frankly totally unacceptable level of drug driving on Scotland’s roads”.

Mr Halpin, who served as deputy chief constable in Lothian and Borders Police, prior to the establishment of Police Scotland, said the number of drug driving cases being dealt with was “significantly higher than was originally estimated”.

He told the SPA meeting: “One result of this ongoing challenge is keeping up with the demand for toxicology services, the testing of blood of suspected drug drivers.

“The director of forensic services reports that the demand continues to exceed the in-house capacity to deliver.

“Forensic services capacity is being enhanced by outsourcing some of the drug driving blood testing to private forensic service companies.”

He said the SPA board would “continue to closely monitor this issue” as he added that “work is also underway with partners to understand the demand, looking to improve the processes and develop a more sustainable toxicology service to meet it”.