Emergency call handlers need better training around dealing with overdose situations, according to a new report from the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF). Some call handlers have been giving advice that conflicts with that provided in naloxone training, says Providing emergency help to someone having an overdose: your experiences.
The document is based on the survey responses of 285 people who have provided emergency help to someone having an overdose, including family members, healthcare professionals, support workers, emergency service staff and members of the public. Despite the recommendation for improved training, however, the majority of interactions with ambulance call handlers were rated as either very helpful (more than 30 per cent) or helpful (almost 38 per cent) with a minority of participants rating their interactions as unhelpful or very unhelpful.
The responses also illustrate the need for wider availability of naloxone, says SDF, and for more people to be trained in its use. Around three-quarters of respondents had completed a training course on overdose signs and symptoms and how to use naloxone, with a ‘fairly even’ split between those who had been trained within the last year and those who had been trained more than a year ago.
‘Near fatal overdose pathways’ need to be developed, the document recommends, so that people who’ve experienced an overdose can be offered swift help to reduce the chances of it happening again. People who have intervened in an overdose situation should also be provided with support, it adds, as this can often be traumatic – particularly where family members are involved.
The report also recommends that attention be paid to ‘attitudes and approaches’ during emergency help, in order to reduce stigma. ‘Emergency responders are encouraged to view people experiencing an overdose as vulnerable people requiring immediate support’, it says. ‘When you tell a medical worker that you are an IV user, they put on gloves and mostly treat you like a leper – there are exceptions, I admit,’ said one respondent. ‘They seemed more concerned about why we had a naloxone kit than about helping the person who had overdosed,’ was how another described the ambulance crew. ‘It was the first question they asked when they attended the scene.’
‘This is the first time people offering assistance – sometimes involving naloxone administration – have been surveyed nationally in an opt-in survey,’ said the report’s author, Martin Anderson. ‘It is clear that for some people this is an emotional situation and that the impact of that can remain after the incident is over. Naloxone administration by workers in communities, family, friends, and members of the public is a crucial part of the national mission to reduce drug-related deaths and we need people to feel confident and supported in carrying naloxone, administering it, contact emergency services, and in seeking another supply. This survey will give services and policy makers the information they need to build that confidence and support.’
Document at www.sdf.org.uk – read it here