Police Scotland first in UK to issue all officers with naloxone

Police Scotland is becoming the first force in the UK to issue all of its officers with the anti-overdose spray naloxone.

Feb 17, 2022
By Tony Thompson

The national roll-out  follows a successful pilot programme in Dundee, Falkirk, Glasgow, Stirling and Caithness, during which officers used the spray that counters the effects of overdose from opioids such as heroin, to provide first aid on 62 occasions.

Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said: “I know the terrible toll of drugs deaths in Scotland and policing is committed to playing our part in reducing the harm caused to individuals, families and communities.

“We have a vital role in preventing drugs from reaching our streets and bringing those engaged in serious and organised crime to justice and that will always be a key duty and priority for Police Scotland.

“Preservation of life, keeping people safe, lies right at the heart of policing. We have a purpose and remit which goes beyond law enforcement. We have a positive legal duty to improve the lives of our communities. Equipping and training officers with naloxone will contribute to that mission.

“Policing is so often the service of first and last resort; the service first on the scene; the service which responds to crisis and criticality. Where a person is suffering an overdose, naloxone nasal-spray can be given safely by officers with no adverse effects.

“It is absolutely essential that where naloxone is used by an officer to help people in crisis, professional medical attention continues to be provided from ambulance service colleagues and others. In addition, it is crucial that timely and sustainable support is available to provide treatment for those suffering addiction.”

The chief constable added: “I’m grateful to all the officers who stepped forward during the trial to carry naloxone and help their fellow citizens when they needed it. During the test of change, 808 officers were trained to use naloxone, and 656 (81 per cent) volunteered to carry the nasal spray kits.”

Work is under way to secure stock of naloxone and a national programme of training and equipping more than 12,000 officers will be undertaken in the coming months.

All officers within response, community and other roles, including dog handlers, armed police, public order and road policing up to and including the rank of inspector, will be trained and equipped. Any other officer or member of staff is free to undertake the training.

The number of drug-related deaths in Scotland has risen constantly in recent years, to a total of 1,339 in 2020.

The announcement follows the publication of an Edinburgh Napier University-led study, which involved an independent evaluation of the pilot programme.

A team led by Dr Peter Hillen and advised by Dr Andrew McAuley of Glasgow Caledonian University assessed the attitudes and experiences of police officers, the effectiveness of their naloxone training and responses from people who use drugs and support services.

A total of 346 police officers completed questionnaires, with 41 taking part in interviews or focus groups, and further interviews were carried out with people who use drugs, family members, support workers and key stakeholders.

A majority of officers who participated in an interview or focus group were supportive of the pilot and its roll-out across Scotland. Thirteen interviewees had personally administered naloxone, some on several occasions, and officers reported very positive experiences of naloxone being used effectively to save people’s lives.

While some officers considered carrying naloxone would lead to greater reliance on police by ambulance services, offcers overwhelmingly said that preserving life was the top priority.

Community stakeholders who were interviewed were supportive of the pilot as part of a range of initiatives to tackle the drug deaths crisis.

The study recommended that police officers carrying naloxone should be rolled out Scotland-wide, and that it should also be placed within police cars and custody suites to widen access.

As well as compulsory naloxone training for all police staff, the report urged consideration be given to measures to further address stigmatising attitudes towards people who use drugs.

It also recommended that officers be given ‘unambiguous information’ about their legal position if they administer the emergency treatment.

Professor Nadine Dougall, one of the team’s co-investigators, said: “Our evaluation has shown that there is significant potential benefit in training and equipping police officers with naloxone nasal spray as part of emergency first aid until ambulance support arrives.

“Many police officers told us they are often the first to attend people who have overdosed, and they greatly valued the potential to save lives in this way. People with personal experience of overdose also agreed naloxone should be carried by police officers but were keen to stress that naloxone was only a part of a solution to address drug-related deaths.”

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