Drugs deaths - National Drugs Mission Clinical Advisory Group: terms of reference

Terms of reference for the Drugs deaths: National Drugs Mission Clinical Advisory Group.


The numbers of drug-related deaths in Scotland are far too high. These deaths are tragic and avoidable – reducing them is a priority for all of us. The core of this mission is taking action based on what we know works to reduce harm, promote recovery and save lives. 

The National Mission was established by the former First Minister in January 2021 to reduce drug delated deaths and harms supported by an additional £50 million funding per year.

The aim of the national mission is to save and improve lives through a holistic approach that seeks to prevent overdoses, get more people into treatment and recovery, and address multiple and complex needs.

Three equally key perspectives must be continuously informed by each of these viewpoints in delivering the National Mission:

  • high-quality, evidence and research
  • the professional opinions and experiences of clinical, public health and other practitioners
  • the preferences, priorities and values of the people who are most at risk and their families.

The Scottish Government’s National Mission Clinical Advisory Group (NMCAG) is a reference group that provides clinical expertise to wider National Mission groups.


The CAG will:

  • provide clinical expertise to local and national policy and decision makers
  • be champions of change, innovation and research in response to Drug Deaths Task Force (DDTF),  Medically Assisted Treatment (MAT), Residential Rehabilitation (RR) National Collaborative (NC)
  • explore and consider the data, views and evidence  from across Scotland and beyond and the best way to support those at highest risk, those with clinical priorities and/or those with long term conditions
  • consider the data on the effectiveness of measures and advise where improvements should/could be made
  • be mindful of the wider harms, practical and policy implications that the challenges of these measures may cause – including mental and physical health
  • maintain links between the Oversight Group, Delivery Board, National Collaborative, MAT Implementation Support Team (MIST), Residential Rehabilitation Development Working Group (RRDWG), Drug-related Deaths Incident Management Team (DDIMT)

The NMCAG will report to the Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy.


Membership of the Group is at the invitation of the Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy, the Deputy National Clinical Director and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

The Group will be co-chaired by the Deputy National Clinical Director and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

  • John Harden, Co-chair of CAG, Deputy National Clinical Director 
  • Marion Bain, Co-chair of CAG, Deputy Chief Medical Officer

A core membership will be agreed by the  group co-chairs. This will be published on the Scottish Government website. Membership will include Clinical Leads specific to all relevant conditions and wider areas such as general practice, pharmaceutical, mental health, third sector organisations and social work.

Membership will be reviewed after six months and annually thereafter.

Policy areas will send a representative as required or those present will act as a conduit for associated policy areas.

To enable members of NMCAG to fulfil their remit, separate work streams and projects may be developed as required, to enable more detailed exploration in the specific contexts.

The NMCAG is not a Scientific Advisory Group, it is a consensus seeking  Clinical Advisory Group using science to inform clinical policy.

The NMCAG and its members may draw on analytical and social research colleagues as required.

Depending on the nature of the agenda, other specialists, may be called upon (on an ad-hoc basis) to provide expert advice and guidance to the group.

Other SG Policy colleagues can attend if they wish – including MAT Standards, Residential Rehabilitation, Harm Reduction, Multiple Complex Need, LLE, Taskforce Delivery, Workforce, Culture and Structure Change, ADP sponsorship/support team.

Fairness at work

In line with Scottish Government policy on Fairness at Work, NMCAG members:

  • have a responsibility to respect the dignity of others
  • must avoid behaving in a way that may cause offence or distress to your colleagues or others with whom you have contact as part of your duties, including service users and external contacts. It does not matter whether the perceived harassment, victimisation, discrimination or bullying is unintentional
  • should be considerate of Scottish Government policies on equal opportunities and diversity
  • should support any member/colleague who feels that they have been harassed, victimised, discriminated against or bullied and encourage them to seek help from an appropriate source
  • behave appropriately at all times towards the people you work with
  • remember that inappropriate behaviour is behaviour which is “viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient”
  • should raise issues with the Chair or Secretariat if you feel that you have been treated unacceptably
  • should try to support anyone that you feel is being treated unacceptably and encourage them to seek help. If they do not feel able to report the behaviour themselves, you should raise the issues with the Chair or Secretariat

Information access and sharing

Any inputs shared with the group for discussion will be considered confidential (Official Sensitive) and not for further sharing.

Declaration of interests

All members must make a full declaration of interests. If a member is uncertain as to whether or not an interest should be declared, they must seek guidance from the chair/SG. The NMCAG secretariat will maintain a central register of all interests declared.


The NMCAG will meet every quarter virtually and progress urgent work via secretariat e-mail in between.    

Secretariat support

SG will support the group including managing the Mission Delivery mail box, dealing with appropriate in between meeting asks, arranging NMCAG meetings, liaising with Policy and Clinical in between, preparing and circulating agenda, papers and communications. 

The Chair will agree the final agenda for each meeting of the group.  Agendas, supporting papers and minutes of the previous meeting will be circulated to members as soon as practicably possible.

Other than in exceptional circumstances, all members of the group should endeavour to attend the meetings or send a Deputy informing Secretariat Support in advance.

Where urgent business is required to be conducted between meetings, the Chair will arrange for members views to be sought via Secretariat and the outcome will be reported at the next meeting of the group.

Minutes of the meeting will be submitted to the CMO and CNO, CPO if appropriate and specific Policy Colleagues for information. Minutes will reflect themes and actions raised and will not be a full recorded verbatim minute.

Version control

  • version 1.0 (September 2022): First version issued 
  • version 1.1 (April 2023): Updated version to reflect changes and new Minister 
  • version 1.2 (May 2023): Updated version to reflect feedback from set up meeting on 26 April 2023
Back to top