PHE launches online NPS monitoring tool

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A new national system to monitor the effects of NPS has been launched by Public Health England (PHE) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The pilot scheme will also share treatment best practice between drug services, A&E departments, prisons, sexual health clinics, GP surgeries and other settings.

All front-line health staff will be able to access the Report Illicit Drug Reaction (RIDR) system to anonymously report information about NPS and their effects, with the data then analysed to identify ‘patterns of symptoms and harms’. The information will be used to improve patient safety, ‘inform treatment guidance and help staff deal more quickly with unknown substances’, says PHE. While there is widespread concern about NPS use among vulnerable populations such as prisoners and homeless people, there is still little available guidance and the harms ‘are often poorly understood’ by frontline services, it adds.

Rosanna O’Connor: New system will help staff deal with emerging challenges.

‘The contents of NPS frequently change and their effects can be dangerous and unpredictable,’ said PHE’s director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Rosanna O’Connor. ‘Last year’s ban has helped reduce their easy availability, but we are still seeing the most vulnerable groups – particularly the homeless, prisoners and some young people – suffering the greatest harm from these substances.

‘The new RIDR system will help health staff better deal with the emerging challenges we are seeing. We want to encourage all frontline staff in settings such as A&E, sexual health clinics, prisons, drug and mental health services, to use the system, which over time will greatly increase our knowledge of these new substances and ultimately improve patient care.’

PHE has also published its latest hepatitis C data, with the most recent estimates suggesting that around 160,000 people in England – and 214,000 in the UK as a whole –are chronically infected. Injecting drug use ‘continues to be the most important risk factor’ for infection, says the document.

‘In 2015, 52 per cent of people who had injected psychoactive drugs, participating in the Unlinked Anonymous Monitoring (UAM) survey of people who inject drugs, tested positive for antibodies to HCV, and this proportion has remained relatively stable over the past decade,’ it states.

 RIDR website at report-illicit-drug-reaction.phe.gov.uk

Hepatitis C in England: 2017 report at www.gov.uk