Posted: Tue 28th Mar 2023

Number of people attending safe needle and syringe programmes falls by 27% in Wales

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Mar 28th, 2023

The number of people in Wales regularly attending needle and syringe programmes (NSP) to access safe injecting equipment has fallen by more than a quarter in 2021-22 compared to 2019-20, according to a Public Health Wales.

A report published today has revealed a substantial change in both the number of individuals attending the service regularly and the profile of service users following the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

The report also found that a quarter of people who inject psychoactive substances such as heroin and crack cocaine share needles and syringes with others, while a third share equipment like spoons, filters, and water.

The estimated coverage of the NSP service, representing the proportion of injecting ‘events’ using sterile equipment, is only 22%. This poses a significant risk for bacterial infections and transmission of bloodborne viruses among those who inject drugs.

Additionally, the proportion of people aged 50 and over accessing NSP services has risen over the past five years across all substance groups – opioids, stimulants, and image and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs).

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board had the highest rate of users attending NSP services.

Rick Lines, Head of Substance Misuse for Public Health Wales, said:

“Needle and syringe programmes in Wales provide sterile injecting equipment for people who inject drugs, and aim to reduce harm by providing advice, information and referral to other services such as specialist treatment services.”

“The service also encourages people who use drugs to consider alternative methods for drug use, to avoid the associated risks of injecting, such as transmission of blood borne viruses and bacterial infections.”

“These figures give us an idea of the picture of injecting drug use in Wales. There are multiple reasons why the number of people attending the NSP programmes has reduced.”

“These could include a genuine reduction in the number of people who inject drugs, a reduction in the number of people who inject drugs accessing NSP services resulting in increases in sharing and reuse of injecting equipment, an increased use of alternative sources of injecting equipment, or a combination of these and other factors.”

“It is important that we monitor these numbers over the coming years, alongside information coming from engagement with service users and front line staff, in order to close the gap of access to safe needles and syringes and to ensure that our services are robust to manage any changes in requirements in future years.”

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