People living in Scotland’s poorest areas are 14 times more likely to spend time in hospital because of drugs than their more affluent counterparts, new figures have shown.
Data released by Public Health Scotland (PHS) on Tuesday shows the rate of hospital patients among people in the lowest measure on the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) is 531.99 per 100,000 of the population, compared to just 37.24 in the most affluent.
The statistics also show the disparity between the rich and poor in terms of the rate of hospital stays, with the figure for the most deprived standing at 742.42 per 100,000 compared to 45.65 for the most well off.
The data showed the socioeconomic ranking of Scots correlated with their likelihood to face a stay in hospital due to drugs, with SIMD 1 – the most deprived – seeing the highest rates of hospitalisation, with the chance decreasing markedly between SIMD 1 and 2, then slightly decreasing for every subsequent classification.
The figures come as Scotland is gripped by a drugs crisis, which claimed the lives of 1,264 people in 2019, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying the Scottish Government had taken its “eye off the ball” on drugs during an election debate.
The total figures for hospital stays were also the highest on record.
In 2019-20, there were 282.24 stays in hospital because of drugs per 100,000 of the population, compared with 73.57 in 1996-97, according to data released by Public Health Scotland.
Again, opioids were the major reason for admission to hospital, with the category accounting for almost half (7,263) of all stays during 2019-20, almost three times more than sedatives, the second highest cause of hospitalisation
A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “We have said a national mission is needed to tackle the drug deaths emergency and we have allocated an additional £250 million over the next five years to improve and increase access to services for people affected by drug addiction.
“We are clear that any window of opportunity to engage with people in crisis, including those who have experienced near-fatal overdose, should be explored in order to encourage access to appropriate treatment.
“We are taking a range of actions, including using additional funding to extend outreach initiatives which identify those who are at risk, address their immediate health concerns, and connect them with other community or clinical services for more holistic support.
“The implementation of new Medicine-Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards ensure that anyone identified at risk through hospital admission for drug-related harms or near-fatal overdose will be identified and prioritised, and supported into the treatment that is right for them.
“The standards emphasise the importance of giving people an informed choice in the support available to them – an essential part of respecting a person’s rights and dignity.
“We are also increasing the provision of Naloxone, a medication that can reverse the effects of opioid overdose and save lives.”
Scottish Tory health spokeswoman, Annie Wells, said the long-term trends in the figures “reveal an appalling record of failure”.
“These figures also make it clear again that the drugs crisis hits communities like mine the hardest. If you live in a more deprived area, you are far more likely to end up in hospital from drugs,” she added.
“It’s time the SNP Government started listening to those on the frontline and agreed to Scottish Conservative demands for a Right to Recovery, to enshrine in law that people can access the treatment they need to get better.”
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