29th January issue

As a GP in Reading 20 years ago, I only came across one or two sex workers,’ Dr Stephen Pick told me. The picture now is very different – whether we want to see it or not. With an established sex trade, the challenge is to make a connection between women and the services they desperately need but are reluctant to seek out (cover story, page 6).

Dr Pick seems to be one of those prize specimens, a GP determined to improve his patients’ overall wellbeing, as well as fixing ailments while fighting with the surgery clock. At what must be a particularly difficult time for sex workers to feel comfortable about approaching services, he suggests straightforward ways through which GPs can make it easier – recommendations that echo documents from the Home Office and NTA, produced last year.

Has this research hit home? In the NTA study, 92 per cent of women said they were wasting their lives by being on drugs. Almost as many said they wanted to be able to cope with life without using drugs. Surely this points to the fact that if realistic help is offered, there’s a good chance they’ll take it?

Communication is a strong theme throughout this fortnight’s issue. What’s the best way of getting parents to discuss drug issues, and how do you equip them to tackle difficult subjects with their children? Drug, alcohol and parenting charities debated issues at a recent seminar and learnt from innovative schemes (page 12).

Gary Rees shows determination to improve communication between prisons and makes progress in healthcare and harm reduction through the innovative ‘Sparcle!’ network, on page 10.

Finally, amid reports of how crystal meth is devastating America, the Home Office reclassified the drug this week. How worried should we be about its impact on the UK? Two different viewpoints contribute to the national debate, on page 13.

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