A consultation has opened at Holyrood on a proposed member's bill by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives that would enact an enforceable right to treatment for those recovering from addiction.

Douglas Ross MSP believes that his Right to Addiction Recovery (Scotland) Bill would help those currently unable to access treatment to recover from drug or alcohol addiction.

Introducing his proposal, he states that despite Scotland having the worst drug death rate in Europe, one of the Scottish Government’s own reviews into residential rehabilitation describes how waiting times can be up to a year, with providers saying that existing pathways to securing funding for placements are a "significant barrier to fulfilling current capacity", with a "convoluted" funding system that often sees treatment centres lose out.

He adds that while there are numerous societal and health reasons for Scotland's poor record, "ultimately the system for treating addiction has used an approach that has failed for years. It is not fit for purpose. It fixates on treating problems like heroin use by increasing methadone prescriptions instead of rehabilitation and recovery programmes. This cannot continue".

His bill would place an obligation on Scottish ministers, health boards and others to provide treatment and set up reporting arrangements so that the quality and access of treatment provided can be monitored and reported to the Scottish Parliament. It would aim to establish a national funding scheme to ensure that resources swiftly reach frontline treatment services in areas of acute demand. In addition, it would see the introduction of new national standards and guidance to increase the accessibility of rehabilitation programmes.

Individuals would be able to access a preferred treatment option unless this was deemed to be harmful by a medical professional. Options would include residential or community based rehabilitation or detoxification, stabilisation services, substitute prescribing services, and any other forms of treatment as a health professional might deem appropriate, in line with guidance from ministers. The bill would seek to prevent individuals seeking drug and alcohol treatment services from being refused access for reasons including a medical history of substance misuse, or a criminal history involving substance misuse, or the outcome of a mental health assessment.

Mr Ross also intends to consider how effective and appropriate the current NHS complaints procedures are, and whether an additional complaints procedure specific to this proposal should be included in the bill. 

Click here to access the consultation, which closes on 12 January 2022.