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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Glasgow press ahead with plans to deliver treatment centre for heroin addicts

Written by Lucinda Cameron

Health chiefs are pressing ahead with plans to deliver a treatment centre for heroin addicts in the hope of tackling a city's drug problems.

Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) said it is moving forward with plans for a Heroin Assisted Treatment (HAT) facility in the city centre.

It is continuing discussions with the Scottish Government about how best to progress plans for a Safer Drug Consumption Facility (SDCF) in the city to tackle the ongoing HIV outbreak affecting people who inject drugs in public.

There were 157 drug deaths in Glasgow in 2015 with heroin and/or morphine the cause or contributing factor in 73 of these deaths.

A legal amendment would be needed before it would be possible to open an SDCF, described as "fix rooms" or "shooting galleries" by some.

However no legal exemption is required to provide a HAT programme which can legally be delivered within the framework of existing Medicines legislation, the Glasgow HSCP said.

It said correspondence received from the Lord Advocate further clarifies any HAT facility could also operate a needle exchange scheme within the bounds of existing prosecution policy.

Current estimates suggest there is a group of approximately 500 very vulnerable people who inject drugs in public places in Glasgow city centre and are said to be "substantially responsible" for the majority of discarded needles in public areas.

Following a meeting of the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board on Wednesday, Susanne Millar, Glasgow City HSCP Chief Officer for Strategy, Planning and Commissioning, said: "This public injecting group has high rates of hospital admissions, incarceration and homelessness.

"Conventional treatment and services have not been as effective as we would want in reducing health risks and the resulting costs. Our ultimate goal is for drug users to recover from their addiction and remain drug free.

"However, some of our service users have had a number of failed attempts at quitting Heroin. Evidence from other countries has shown HAT to be effective and it is important to keep people as safe as possible while using this service."

She added: "It is important to stress that HAT will only partially address the issues identified in the Health Needs Assessment as it is designed for a very small subset of the target population.

"Ongoing dialogue with the Scottish Government has agreed that a SDCF would enable much more harm reduction and engagement work with the at risk group."

The HAT programme is a highly specialised clinical intervention in which diamorphine is prescribed for the treatment of heroin addiction.
It can only be undertaken by doctors with a licence allowing them to prescribe the medication.

HSCP officers continue to work with officials from the Scottish Government to discuss next steps regarding opening a SDCF.

This could take the form of requesting either the UK Government amend existing Regulations attached to the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 in such a way as to enable the operation of a SDCF, or the Scottish Government be given the power to amend the regulations.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We will continue to engage with Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership on their proposals to respond the public health challenge in the city, including a heroin assisted treatment facility."

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