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Additional investment in Alcohol Treatment Service in Scotland providing positive impacts for dependent drinkers

A new study reports that additional funding and resources in specialist alcohol treatment services has had a number of positive impacts for dependent drinkers in Scotland. Participants reported that increased capacity has led to more people being supported and more effective treatment with an increased understanding of the importance of recovery and preventative work.  A wide range of other developments were reported during the research including convergence with drug treatment services and the increasing role of peer-led recovery services.

The study ‘Assessing the availability of and need for specialist alcohol treatment services in Scotland’ showed that 149 specialist alcohol treatment services delivered interventions to almost 32,000 individuals across Scotland during 2012. The research also established a baseline ratio of service access among dependent drinkers which can be used to inform policy and practice in the future.

Scottish figures on treatment engagement among dependent drinkers compare favourably with international standards as well as previous studies carried out in England which showed lower rates of access.  

The study assessed the impact of the record investment that accompanied the 2009 strategy document, ‘A Framework for Action’, which set out a range of proposals to tackle alcohol misuse in Scotland by reducing population  consumption, supporting families and communities, promoting positive attitudes and choice, and improving treatment and support.   The study also examined the feasibility of assessing the capacity of specialist alcohol treatment services within a small number of case study areas.   

The study is part of an extensive ongoing programme of work Monitoring and Evaluating Scotland’s Alcohol Strategy (MESAS) led by NHS Health Scotland.  Externally commissioned research was carried out by Iconic Consulting.

John Russell, Head of Mental Health, Addiction and Learning Disabilities and Vice Chair of the West Dunbartonshire Alcohol and Drug Partnership (ADP) said:

 “West Dunbartonshire ADP was delighted to be part of the research into the demand and utilisation of specialist alcohol treatment services in Scotland.  It enabled us to look critically at our services and to acknowledge the positive impact the additional alcohol monies has had on both the services we provide and the outcomes achieved by the individuals we work with”. 

“West Dunbartonshire has had an on-going and significant problem associated with the misuse of alcohol and whilst many of our services provide supports for those living with their own or someone else’s drug and alcohol misuse problems, the additional funding provided by Scottish Government has enabled us to appoint specialist alcohol nurses, provide additional medical sessions and develop person centred, outcome focussed interventions aimed at supporting individuals to reach and sustain recovery from problems associated to alcohol misuse”. 

Andrew McAuley, Public Health Information Manager at NHS Health Scotland said:  

“This research shows that a wide range of specialist alcohol treatment services are available across Scotland.  The additional investment in these services has enabled them to enhance their service provision on a number of levels and support approximately a quarter of those in need.    Information learned from the report about what is working well in addition to the identified barriers limiting access to services will be important in helping engage more individuals with alcohol dependence in the future. Further research is already underway to better understand how service access for dependent drinkers has changed over time.”



For further information please contact Vivienne Wilson, Corporate Communications Manager on 07500 854574 or email


Notes to Editors:

 1.    Link to report – 

 2.     The MESAS web page can be found at:

3.    The Scottish Government published Changing Scotland’s Relationship with Alcohol: A Framework for Action in March 2009, setting out the strategic approach to tackling alcohol misuse in Scotland. The framework proposed sustained action in four areas:

  • Reduced alcohol consumption
  • Supporting families and communities
  • Positive public attitudes toward alcohol and individuals better placed to make positive choices about the role of alcohol in their lives
  • Improved treatment and support

A total of 41 actions were identified, some requiring legislative change. Key elements of the strategy included, amongst others, a record investment in prevention and treatment services; a national programme (including setting targets) for the delivery of Alcohol Brief Interventions (ABIs), and an intention to pursue the introduction of minimum alcohol pricing.

4.    Alcohol services

Interventions for alcohol problems range from delivering brief advice on cutting down alcohol consumption through to complex care for those with alcohol-related brain damage and other serious conditions. These interventions can be delivered in a variety of settings, both within and out with the health service, including the voluntary sector. Interventions are also delivered by a range of providers, both generalist and specialist.


Another key development stemming from the Framework was that in collaboration with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), the Scottish Government has reformed the way in which local areas plan and deliver services. Thirty Alcohol and Drug Partnerships (ADPs) have been established, responsible for developing local strategies and commissioning services that meet the needs of local people. ADPs replaced Alcohol and Drug Action Teams and bring together local partners, including health boards, local authorities, police and voluntary agencies. They are anchored in Community Planning Partnerships


The Quality Alcohol Treatment and Support report (published in 2011) reviewed the progress made in alcohol treatment as part of the Framework, recommending clearer accountability arrangements, for example through development of Core Outcomes, and strengthen the role of ADPs. In February 2012 the Framework progress report was published giving a wider overview of progress made.

5.    Alcohol data 

6.    Iconic Consulting was established in January 2012 by Ian Clark to deliver high quality, value for money consultancy support to the public and third sectors across the UK.




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