Drug related deaths and contact with emergency services

This project aims to link the National Drug-Related Deaths Database (NDRDD) to information on ambulance call-outs and police incidents to gain a broader understanding of the patterns of contact with services (in particular the emergency services) prior to drug-related deaths in Scotland.

Drug-related deaths in Scotland are at the highest level (1,187 in 2018) since records began (224 in 1996); the highest rate of any country in the European Union. This increase has been labelled a ‘crisis’ and an ‘emergency’, and in September 2019 a government taskforce devoted to tackle the rising number of drug-related dealths met for the first time. 

Key questions

The project aims to answer questions including:

  • What proportions of people who experienced a drug-related death had contact with a) ambulance services and b) police within the year leading up to death?
  • What type of contact do people experiencing drug-related deaths tend to have with emergency services in the year prior to death (e.g., type of complaint to SAS, incident code with Police)?
  • What are the common of sequences of contact with services in the 6 month period leading up to drug-related deaths?

Data this research aims to link and analyse

  1. The National Drug Related Deaths Database (NDRDD, NHS NSS) is required to construct a cohort of all individuals who had a drug-related death in the years 2015-2018
  2. Data from the Unscheduled Care Datamart (UCD, NHS NSS) is required to ascertain the types and dates of any ambulance call-outs and other unscheduled care incidents by the NDDRD cohort in the year leading up to death.
  3. Data from the Incident database (Police Scotland) is required to ascertain the types and dates of any incidents involving individuals in the NDDRD cohort in the year leading up to death.

Project lead

Professor Susan McVie, University of Edinburgh and Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (ADR Scotland).

This project is funded by ADR Scotland via its core grant from the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) as an ADR UK partner.

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