Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) standards: access, choice, support

Evidence based standards to enable the consistent delivery of safe, accessible, high-quality drug treatment across Scotland. These are relevant to people and families accessing or in need of services, and health and social care staff responsible for delivery of recovery oriented systems of care.


Foreword from people with lived and living experience of substance use

The road to reducing drug related deaths is rocky and twisting but is one we must persevere on if we are to go any way towards making Scotland a safe and happy place to live for everybody. All lives are precious, all children should expect to be nurtured and feel safe. All parents should expect their children to live long productive lives. As members of the Scottish Drug Death Taskforce with lived experience we have a responsibility to ensure that every avenue is explored, that the range of options is wide and daring and that people have options available at the right time, whatever the circumstances.

We have all seen drug deaths continue to rise within our communities. We believe it is vital we adapt and evolve our current systems using compassion, kindness, respect and dignity. For families, with years of experience of supporting their loved ones, removing barriers and ensuring equality of access, choice and support across all treatment and care in all areas of Scotland is essential.

By using our collective past experiences of what we know isn't working we can become thought leaders and identify new methods and systems in order to better, not only support people with drug and alcohol issues and their families, but also work with communities to become more open and inclusive to supporting vulnerable people experiencing these issues.

Our priority is to place vulnerable people at the centre of our services and the importance of treating individuals with dignity and respect, being non-judgemental in all of our approaches, and the majority of the time we are successful. However, we must continue to encourage and motivate people when they are ready to access the help and support they need.

It is vital to move towards a national approach, to ensure a consistent service will be offered and available to access around Scotland. These Standards have a significant part to play in helping vulnerable people affected by substance use. It is worth considering, if you or a loved one had to engage with any service in desperate need of help and support, how would you wish, indeed expect, yourself or that person to be treated?

Optimising the use of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) will ensure that people have immediate access to the treatment they need with a range of options and the right to make informed choices. If an individual chooses this option within a robust Recovery Oriented System of Care (ROSC) they should expect to receive good quality, person centred care, immediately (if required) with supports into other services and opportunities for challenge and growth.

We support the implementation of the MAT Standards across our nation as an integral part in challenging all services to strive for excellence and provide high quality care no matter where you are in the country. It is vital that feedback from people in services and their loved ones contributes to learning. We recognise the ongoing investment and look forwards to supporting implementation and improvement plans.

Becky Wood, Allan Houston, Colin Hutcheon

Foreword from the Drugs Deaths Taskforce

This report recognises that we have reached a moment in time, where meaningful reform can no longer simply be talked about, but must be delivered at pace. In that knowledge, we believe that these Standards represent the most significant intervention in our battle against rising drug related harms and deaths.

They have been developed by a diverse group, including those who will deliver care and those who will benefit from that care. The intense period of consultation, was strengthened by the active contributions of individuals and families with experience of problematic drug use. We would like to thank everyone who contributed, for helping to make these Standards a reality.

The Standards are challenging, ambitious and need bold leadership to implement. The MAT Programme Team will continue to work with all partners to scale up implementation across Scotland.

Leadership and participation from people with experience of problematic drug use will be central to this phase and a key way to measure success will be the experiences of people and families that use services.

Effective implementation of the Standards will help to reduce drug related harm, including premature death, but this needs to be supported by sustained funding, workforce development, system change and culture change.

Demonstrable commitment from senior leaders in NHS boards, Local Authorities and Health and Social Care Partnerships will be critical and we welcome the Scottish Government leadership in this respect.

We are excited about working with all partners in this critical journey to improve and save lives through safe, effective, accessible and person centred care.

Professor Catriona Matheson

Chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce

Dr Duncan McCormick

Chair of the MAT Standards Subgroup

Foreword from the Chief Medical, Pharmaceutical, Nursing and Social Work Officers of Scotland

Supporting individuals, families and communities to reduce drug harm and drug deaths and ensuring people receive high quality treatment and care is a key priority.

The First Minister, in a statement to Parliament in January 2021, announced a National Mission to reduce drug deaths and harms, with a Minister for Drugs Policy appointed to lead this work of national importance.

We fully support the priorities of the National Mission and recognise that problem drug use is often multi-faceted and a symptom of a more intricate set of issues. The complex problems that people and their families face, must be recognised and tackled.

The Drugs Death Taskforce has been instrumental in driving several projects to reduce drugs based harm, one of which has been the development of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards.

The Standards focus on how treatment is offered. They will reinforce a rights-based approach by ensuring individuals have choice in their treatment and are empowered to access the right support for where they are in their recovery journey.

We very much welcome the publication of the Standards and fully endorse the Minister's expectation of ensuring the Standards are fully embedded across the country by April 2022. Local ownership to embed these Standards into everyday practice is essential. Health and Social Care Partnerships, Alcohol and Drug Partnerships and Community Planning Forums will be instrumental in their delivery and drive for improvement in the quality of support and care to meet each person's individualised needs.

The publication of the Standards is an important milestone in tackling the reduction of drugs death and harm to embed Standards and treatment which are inclusive for all.

Dr Gregor Smith – Chief Medical Officer
Amanda Croft – Chief Nursing Officer
Alison Strath – Interim Chief Pharmaceutical Officer
Iona Colvin – Chief Social Work Officer



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