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‘Drug policy isn’t working... we need to try a completely different approach’

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In a recent interview in The Times, former Chief Medical Officer, Professor Sir Harry Burns considers the symptoms of the country’s drug deaths epidemic. The total of 1,187 fatalities in 2018 represents 218 drug deaths per million of the population and a 27% year-on-year rise. The death rate is three times higher than in the UK as a whole and worse than that of the United States. Politicians should listen to people working on the front line to tackle rising deaths, according to Sir Harry. The trouble is, he says, “public policy tends to be made because someone has a clever idea which then gets picked up by a politician. Very few outcomes in society are determined by one thing.” He believes that health and social benefit on a national scale comes with incremental change over an extended period of time. 

When asked what one thing would you do to improve the health of the nation, Sir Harry said "Scotland has made enormous strides in improving patient safety using the concepts of improvement science in which front line staff have tested many different ideas and applied at scale the changes which they have seen work. It’s the principle of marginal gains that has been successful in sport. I would use this approach to improve wellbeing across society."

Read full interview

Source: The Times, 20 July 2019

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