Turning Point is calling on the government to make naloxone routinely available to the police, paramedics and the general public, as only treatment and healthcare staff are currently able to distribute the drug.
While police in Scotland routinely carry naloxone kits, officers across the UK – along with probation staff and anyone else who regularly comes into contact with drug users – need to have easy access to naloxone, the charity states.
Last year, more than 90 per cent of respondents to a consultation by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) agreed that paramedics, prison staff and others should be able to issue naloxone without a prescription, with more than 60 per cent saying the drug was difficult to access in the event of an overdose. However, ministers ‘have yet to act on the responses,’ Turning Point states.
Almost 4,900 drug poisoning deaths were registered in England and Wales in 2021, 6 per cent up on the previous year and more than 80 per cent higher than a decade ago.
As a provider of treatment services, Turning Point has been distributing naloxone kits to police with impressive results, it says. One officer, PC David Jeeves of Avon and Somerset Police, recently saved someone’s life with naloxone after receiving training from Turning Point. ‘It was a team effort,’ he said. ‘You often feel helpless in these situations, waiting for the paramedics to arrive. With services stretched to breaking point, you don’t know how long they may take to get there. It felt really good to be able to make a difference and save their life.’
‘We urge the government to act now to widen access to naloxone to prevent needless deaths,’ said Turning Point chief executive Julie Bass. ‘Each drug death is a tragedy that could be avoided. Naloxone isn’t a magic solution but has been proven to save lives. Everyone working in public services should always carry a kit, and people using drugs, their families and friends. Naloxone should be seen as first aid, to be used in an emergency like an epi-pen, and become routine for anyone who might witness an overdose.’