Glasgow could become the site of the UK’s first consumption room, after the Glasgow City Joint Integration Board officially approved the development of a business case.
A full business case for both a consumption room and heroin-assisted treatment will now be drawn up, and formally considered when the board meets in February. Any facility established in the city should also offer wraparound services such as counselling, primary health care and advice on issues like housing and welfare, however, according to a working group established by the local alcohol and drug partnership (ADP) (DDN, July/August, page 4). This would help maximise engagement with the target population and increase ‘the potential for harm reduction’, the group said.
The working group reviewed how existing consumption room services operated in places like Europe, Canada and Australia, as well as considering feedback from stakeholders. A detailed costing of the facility will now be carried out, alongside a consultation with local residents and businesses to identify a location.
There are an estimated 5,500 people who inject drugs in Glasgow, according to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, with around 500 ‘very vulnerable’ people injecting in public places around the city centre. Last year the city saw a spike in new HIV infections – 47 compared with the ‘previously consistent’ annual average of ten – and also recorded more than 150 drug-related deaths, while police and community safety teams regularly deal with problems associated with discarded needles.
The ADP said it would now develop a ‘robust’ case to support the development of the service, which is likely to prove controversial. ‘Today’s decision marks real progress towards delivering a service model that meets the needs of this small, but very vulnerable, group,’ said the partnership’s vice chair Dr Emilia Crighton (pictured). ‘We are now one step closer to catching up with other countries in the way we tackle this problem. This public injecting group has high rates of hospital admissions, incarceration and homelessness. While conventional treatment and services are effective for the majority of people, we believe this facility will make a major impact in reducing health risks and the resulting costs for this group.’
Although the ultimate goal was for users to remain drug free, until people were ‘ready to seek and receive help to stop using drugs it is important to keep them as safe as possible while do they continue to use drugs’, she stated.
Meanwhile, France’s first consumption room has been opened in Paris by health minister Marisol Touraine and the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo. Located in a hospital near the Gare du Nord, the facility is a partnership with harm reduction organisation Gaia-Paris and employs a multi-disciplinary team of 20, with staff expecting around 200 visitors a day. Touraine called the centre a ‘breakthrough for public health in our country’ and ‘an innovative and courageous response to a health emergency’. A second facility in Strasbourg is also expected to open before the end of the year.