The following 'harm reduction response' has been inspired by UnitingCare ReGen's proactive response to negative media reports of needles/syringes in community settings. This 'letter' provides a template for similar action by relevant bodies based in the UK (harm reduction agencies, drug and alcohol workers, drug users).
Earlier this month, the National Needle Exchange Forum (NNEF), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), and the newly formed Public Health England (PHE) announced a country-wide survey of needle and syringe programmes – the first in this country for eight years. This survey will provide the most complete picture possible in terms of service coverage, quality, interventions and equipment, and models (such as specialist fixed sites, pharmacy programmes, mobile units and outreach). But the survey will only work if people take part – so please take the time to contribute to this important work.
Although there has been research around the benefits of Low Dead Space (LDS) injecting equipment for a number of years there has been an increasing interest in it recently. Even the New York Times has featured articles on the subject. So it's clear that now is the ideal time for some innovation in the development of injecting kit.
Over the last 6-7 years, in my role as a university-based researcher, I have been given privileged access to a number of Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSP) throughout England. Throughout this time, a large number of organisations and individuals have assisted me in carrying out research concerning injecting drug use that takes place in public settings (such as toilets, car parks, green areas, derelict property etc). This assistance has permitted me to carry out observational research within NSP, to make contact with injecting drug users regarding their experiences of public injecting drug use and to identify harms associated with this practice. From this work I have been able to make a number of harm reduction recommendations regarding the harm production effect of public injecting drug use.
We're living in a world where we have access to instant communications, couple this with busy workloads and tools to speed up that communication and it's no great surprise that a warning you receive will often be sent off to others without you checking out the details (or in a lot of cases without it even being read) Someone is always sending out warnings in this world. But this is a problem...