Take-home naloxone has been made available by 90 per cent of English local authorities, according to a report from the Local Government Association (LGA). Of those, 90 per cent provide it through drug treatment services, 25 per cent via hostels and 25 per cent through outreach workers, says Naloxone survey 2017.
The survey was sent to 134 of the 152 local authorities in England, as some services are shared, with an 89 per cent response rate. ‘Given the uniformly high response rate, the results should be taken as a good indication of the picture across all local authorities in England,’ says the report. Almost all (95 per cent) of the respondents that make naloxone available provide it to service users, while 79 per cent provide it to family, friends and carers and 64 per cent to opiate users not currently in treatment. Just over three quarters had a provision policy or framework in place.
Of the councils that have yet to make it available, half said they would do so if there was an increase in overdoses or opiate-related deaths in their area, with 29 per cent citing low numbers of drug-related deaths as a factor in their decision not to provide the drug.
Meanwhile, Public Health England (PHE) is renewing calls for people to get tested for hepatitis C. Around 200,000 people are thought to be living with chronic hep C infection in the UK, with a ‘substantial proportion’ unaware that they have it. Around a third of those with a long-term infection are believed to be over 50 ‘and may have acquired the infection years, or even decades, earlier’, stresses the agency.
Death rates for hep C in the UK are falling, likely as a result of improved access to treatment (DDN, September 2016, page 4) and increased treatment with new direct acting antiviral (DAA) drugs, says PHE’s Hepatitis C in the UK: 2017 report. However, figures for estimated rates of infection among people who use drugs and ‘prevalence of infection in recent initiates to drug use’ remain largely unchanged since the beginning of the decade. ‘Moreover, the proportion of PWID reporting adequate needle/syringe provision was found to be suboptimal, with only around one half of those surveyed reporting adequate provision for their needs,’ the document states.
‘We strongly encourage anyone who may have been at risk of hep C infection to get tested, whether or not they have any symptoms,’ said clinical scientist in PHE’s immunisation, hepatitis and blood safety department, Dr Helen Harris. ‘The sooner treatment starts, the greater the chance of avoiding long-term health complications.’
We need your views on hep C
DDN has partnered with the I’m Worth… campaign to create a survey that will inform initiatives for better access to hepatitis C treatment. Please complete the quick survey here.