Further improvement is needed to support people living with alcohol and drug addictions across Scotland to aid effective recovery and protect communities, a new report says.

The Care Inspectorate has reviewed the way addiction services across the country are using and applying core recovery ‘Quality Principles’ set out by the Scottish Government.

Alcohol and Drug Partnerships across Scotland deliver services to support people with serious alcohol and drug related problems.

The Quality Principles call for services to support communities to become safe places for people to achieve recovery in a way that is person-led and stigma free.

A year after issuing the principles, the Scottish Government commissioned the Care Inspectorate to lead a programme of validated self-assessment involving all 29 Alcohol and Drug Partnerships in Scotland. The aim was to determine how well the Quality Principles had been embedded and to assess their impact on outcomes for people who use alcohol and drug services.

Today’s report says the majority of Alcohol and Drug Partnerships are actively embracing the Quality Principles. While the degree to which the principles have been embedded is variable across the country, inspectors identified a positive shift towards a recovery philosophy and it is clear that the principles are influencing strategic planning, commissioning, service delivery, workforce development, practice and organisational culture and change. Inspectors also called for a number of improvements, and said they expected to see stronger evidence about how the views of people affected by drug and alcohol issues are heard and taken into account.

In some parts of Scotland, local agencies needed to improve the way in which people's needs are assessed and ensure that recovery plans are robust. Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: "Problematic alcohol and drug use in Scotland blights lives, with consequences felt widely. Alcohol and drug addiction costs us all dearly, not only through ill-health and crime but also in the pain caused to families and communities, sometimes for generations. "Increasingly, more integrated health and social care can provide more streamlined and joined up approaches for people experiencing alcohol and drug misuse.

"To recover, people need skilled, consistent and responsive interventions which recognise and tackle the complex issues underpinning addiction. Services need to be available at the right time, in the right way and for as long as needed.

"This report highlights the need for continued improvement that supports communities to become safe places for individuals to achieve recovery in a way that works for them, and takes into account their needs, rights and circumstances.

"We want to see communities supported to take a holistic approach towards assisting recovery in people with addictions. That means it’s not just specialists who have a role to play, but everyone working across health and social care.

"We also suggest continued education of frontline staff to increase their awareness and understanding of the complexities of problematic substance misuse and recovery, including the impact of traumatic events on each individual’s unique circumstances and tailoring support to meet their needs.

"Staff who work in frontline services also need support to continue to reduce the stigma that is still attached to addiction.

"The majority of operational staff were very positive and confident in demonstrating that they worked well together to improve outcomes for people, families and communities.

"However, many people still experienced stigma and prejudice when accessing services in the community or in hospital. Local councils and health boards must do more to reduce the stigma and create the necessary conditions to successfully embed a recovery philosophy. "Where young people are affected by substance misuse, we expect to see closer working between drug and alcohol staff and those supporting children to ensure young people are protected from harm."

The report is available here.