Humankind’s new NSP standards will help set a precedent for the sector, says Stacey Smith.
In August of this year, the Office for National Statistics released figures indicating that more than 4,500 people had died as a result of drug poisoning in 2020 alone. Sadly, in the same period, we have also seen a decline in the number of people accessing the needle and syringe programmes that play a crucial role in reducing drug-related deaths. This loss of face-to-face contact with people during a time of rising drug deaths poses a significant risk.
The needle and syringe programmes provided by Humankind not only help save lives but also reduce Hepatitis C reinfection rates, provide the life-saving drug naloxone and offer an opportunity for our teams to begin conversations with people that can help connect them to further services and support. It is for these reasons that they are at the heart of our work and we are committed to ensuring they are delivered effectively, which is why we’ve recently introduced new needle and syringe provision standards across all of our drug recovery services (DDN, October, page 5).
The standards, which aim to reduce stigma and increase equitable access to needle and syringe provision, are part of Humankind’s work to ensure that as the organisation grows we continue to maintain a high level of care across our core provision. The document includes guidelines for things like provision of needles that meet national best practice standards, safe use and disposal of equipment, and processes for managing stock. While many of these protocols might seem quite obvious, focusing on the basics in this way will ensure that we’re providing a consistently high standard of service.
Creating the standards has also allowed us to build on fundamental needle and syringe specific requirements by including additional elements such as access to menstrual and contraceptive products, the provision of onsite hepatitis C testing and pathways to treatment, and connections to peer support groups.
Humankind also recognises that harm reduction principles should be a thread that runs through all our service provision. To support the process we are recruiting a national harm reduction lead who will be responsible for developing and implementing a national harm reduction strategy for the organisation.
It is our hope that as well as building on our already high levels of service, these new standards will set a precedent for needle and syringe provision within the sector and, most importantly of all, help to save lives.
The needle and syringe provision standards can be downloaded from Humankind’s website.