Green light for life-saving needle exchange van

The new injection equipment provision van – image courtesy of NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.


A second mobile unit for people who use drugs is to take to Glasgow’s streets.


The potentially life-saving overdose reversal drug naloxone will be distributed from the new injection equipment provision (IEP) van, as well as injecting equipment to try to minimise the spread of bloodborne viruses.


Funded by the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce – a group brought together after fatalities hit record levels in 2018 – the additional van is expected to start operating within the next six months to help tackle what the local health board describes as the city’s “drug crisis”.


In January research linked an outbreak of HIV in Glasgow to higher rates of public injecting of illegal drugs. The team behind the van hope offering tests for diseases like HIV from the mobile unit will help reduce its spread.


The current IEP van is staffed by Turning Point Scotland and operates every evening and at the weekends.


Over 49 consecutive nights throughout the pandemic, staff provided an immediate response for 155 individuals, dispensed more than 10,000 needles and sheets of foil, supplied 162 individuals with naloxone and administered naloxone on three occasions to reverse potentially fatal drug overdoses.


Inside the new needle-exchange van that will distribute the overdose reversal drug naloxone.


John Campbell, IEP Improvement Manager at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, says it is about taking the help to where people need it:


“As reflected on the ground and through wider statistics, we’re seeing a significant positive impact from IEP van as a harm reduction initiative for this particular vulnerable group of people.


“The impact is particularly poignant in the context of the HIV epidemic and is allowing us to make significant inroads in providing regular testing and monitoring within the community suffering most from the outbreak.


“Traditional treatment and services simply do not have the same impact on these patients, who often live chaotic lifestyles and have minimal contact with health services.


“The van provides that front door to the health service and, in addition to providing basic immediate treatment if required, patients can be referred onto to the right long-term treatment pathway.


“This could include engaging with a range of specialist services to aid recovery, mental and physical wellbeing, or putting people in touch with wider social services.


“We look forward to seeing the second van on the road and to be able to multiply the positive work already being done within the community and through the wider harm reduction policy.”


by Sarah Nimmo


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