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Hancock: We will do absolutely everything we can to tackle Scottish drug deaths

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock
Health Secretary Matt Hancock

The Health Secretary has promised to “do absolutely everything” he can and put aside party politics to tackle rising drug deaths in Scotland.

During health questions, Matt Hancock said the risk of an opioid epidemic across the UK “is a very serious one”.

SNP MP Alison Thewliss asked the Health Secretary if he will work with the Scottish Government and local health authorities to support the opening of a “medically-supervised drug consumption room” in her Glasgow Central constituency.

Recent figures show deaths caused by drugs in Scotland rose by more than a quarter last year to 1,187 – a higher rate than anywhere in Europe and the highest since current records began in 1996.

I was as shocked as anyone to see the recent news on the figures of the growth in opioid addiction in Scotland. Matt Hancock

Ms Thewliss added: “The prevention green paper talks about the risk of an opioid epidemic and in Scotland we feel that is already here, with 1,187 deaths in Scotland last year.”

In his response, Mr Hancock did not address the policy around drug consumption rooms but acknowledged the severity of the drug problem.

He added: “We have seen that risk materialise in the United States and I was as shocked as anyone to see the recent news on the figures of the growth in opioid addiction in Scotland.

“Now, whilst public health and the NHS are devolved to the Scottish Government – and they must lead on tackling this issue – we in England and the UK-elements of my responsibilities, we will do absolutely everything we can and put aside all party politics to try to tackle this very serious problem.”

Earlier this month, former Liberal Democrat health minister Sir Norman Lamb called for the Government to legalise drug consumption rooms to reduce the harm caused to drug addicts.

During the debate on drug laws, Home Office minister Nick Hurd said while the Government’s policy was “set”, a new prime minister may be able to “reopen debate”.

PA

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