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Last Updated: Monday, 6 March 2006, 15:46 GMT
Methadone review after boy dies
Elphinstone sign
Derek lived with his parents in the East Lothian village of Elphinstone
The first minister has announced a review of Scotland's methadone programme after the death of a toddler who drank the heroin substitute.

Jack McConnell said he was not convinced that current drug rehabilitation policies were clear or consistent enough.

Two-year-old Derek Doran died after drinking the drug at his home in Elphinstone, East Lothian, in December.

The justice, education and health ministers will report back this week.

The child is believed to have been found by his mother Lisa Dodds, who has been questioned by police along with his father Derek Doran, 22.

He was taken to Edinburgh's Royal Hospital for Sick Children, where his death was confirmed.

We need to considerably increase the number of places for drug-free treatment
Jack McConnell

Police said they received the results of a toxicology report last week, which confirmed Derek had died from a methadone overdose.

The first minister declined to comment on the specifics of that case.

He said: "I have asked this week for Andy Kerr, Cathy Jamieson and Peter Peacock, the ministers responsible for different aspects of these policies, to report to Cabinet on Wednesday to ensure that we do have the right policies in place and that we are reviewing policies where they have been in place for some time."

Mr McConnell said national guidance on the provision of methadone dated back to March 1999.

"There can't be much that hasn't been reviewed in the course of the last seven years," he said.

Sick children's hospital sign
The boy was pronounced dead at the children's hospital in Edinburgh
"But I do think the national guidance on the prescription of methadone is one of those areas that requires further attention."

Mr McConnell also pointed out that he had described rehabilitation services across Scotland as inadequate two years ago.

Since then, more resources had been allocated, he said.

"But I also believe we need to know more about the rehabilitation programmes and their success, we need to considerably increase the number of places for drug-free treatment," he added.

"I think there is a place for methadone in that system, but I think that place has to be more carefully managed."

John Home Robertson, the local MSP, said methadone should only be taken in a secure environment and questioned the number of cases where people were allowed to take methadone home.

'Zero tolerance'

Speaking to BBC Scotland, the East Lothian Labour MSP said: "The ideal, secure way of handling this would be for heroin users who sign up for this scheme to consume the methadone on the pharmacist's premises.

"But it's been discovered that that's difficult because you might be 20 or more miles away from the pharmacy.

"We're going to have to find a better way of doing it, either in doctor's surgeries or other secure premises, because it's not tolerable to have little toddlers dying in circumstances like this."

The Scottish Conservative leader Annabel Goldie said the East Lothian tragedy highlighted an unacceptable situation.

"Whilst I am glad to see that the executive has at last woken up to the problem and is now talking about a review, the stark fact is the executive has been ignoring warnings and has presided over the unacceptable level of drug abuse in Scotland," she said.

"As it currently stands, methadone is part of the problem, not the solution and at this rate we are heading for one million scripts being issued per year.

"Of course we have to address the use of methadone in the home but to concentrate solely on that avoids the bigger issue of how we get people off drugs and methadone dependency altogether."

Hear experts' concerns over the use of methadone

Dead toddler had drunk methadone
05 Mar 06 |  Scotland
McConnell call over heroin girl
18 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Heroin girl sparks review of care
02 Feb 06 |  Scotland
Girl, 11, treated for heroin use
29 Jan 06 |  Scotland

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