Healthcare :: Harm reduction action plan in UK

Around ?2-million is to be spent to help reduce the number of people dying from drug overdoses or contracting blood-borne viruses through injecting themselves with dirty needles.

A new drug Harm Reduction Action Plan, published today, will result in more effective treatment being provided to drug misusers, and will provide more support for rehabilitation and abstinence.

Following sharp increases in the 1990s, in the first three years of this decade, there were significant successes in reducing the numbers of drug related deaths and preventing cases of blood-borne virus infections amongst drug misusers. However, recent data suggests that this downward trend has stopped. In 2005, 1,506 drug users died in England from drug abuse. 44 per cent current injecting drug users have contracted hepatitis C.

Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said;

“Tackling drug misuse is a Government priority. Massive strides have already been made in tackling the harm that drugs cause to both individuals and society as a whole. We have increased the numbers of people entering drug treatment, the number being retained in treatment and reduced the level of crime associated with drug misuse. Recently, we announced ?54.3 million of funding to expand in-patient detoxification and residential rehabilitation sectors.

“Still too many young lives are being wasted and young talent squandered because of drug abuse. The harms, diseases and sometimes death caused by drug abuse are still a tragedy for those affected, their families and friends, and the Government is determined to reduce them.”

The Action Plan will help to limit the number of people dying from drug overdoses and the number of injecting drug users contracting blood-borne viruses, through a wide range of actions, such as:

– improving the quality of data on drug overdose-related deaths and blood-borne virus infections. This will help local commissioners prioritise harm reduction activity;
– exploring mechanisms for routine collection of needle exchange data;
– action plans to improve harm reduction in the poorest 10 per cent of areas identified through the NTA/Healthcare Commission Improvement Review in 2007;
– new training and guidance to service users and carers on how to minimise harm associated with drug use;
– a health promotion campaign, including hepatitis B vaccination, targeted at those most at risk;
– regional road shows that focus on local implementation and highlight key messages to local stakeholders.

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