The first pharmacy-based needle exchange dispenser has been launched in Lincolnshire.

Addaction, a charity that supports people to make positive behavioural changes, has introduced a vending machine that dispenses clean needles for drug users, in Riverside pharmacy, Sleaford.

‘Ideal solution’

Dimple Oza, senior pharmacist for Addaction Lincolnshire, said: ‘Addaction’s sterile needle dispenser in Sleaford, although not 100% automated, was considered an ideal solution for numerous reasons.

‘For instance, pharmacy staff don’t need to handle needles. It’s a quicker and easier process for all concerned, frees up pharmacy staff time, takes up no space behind the counter and saves costs on building modifications which may have been necessary in a traditional needle exchange setting.’

At the moment, pharmacies can issue basic needle and syringe packs to drug users as part of the pharmacy-based exchange needle scheme.

The new dispenser aims to tackle the limited provision of needle exchange supplies in Sleaford, which had been without a full needle exchange since September 2017. It also replaces the implementation of a mobile needle exchange provision that might put people at risk.

When a client comes, they place their used needles into a bin and get a token that they put in the machine to obtain their sterilised pack. Each pack contains a harm reduction information leaflet and local contacts for Addaction if the users need help.

Helping drug users 

Chris Mulimba, pharmacy superintendent at the Riverside Pharmacy, said that ‘drug users should be helped, not judged or stigmatised’.

He said: ‘It’s safe and secure. People can access sterilised equipment, find local support, hopefully go into recovery and improve their lives.’

Needle exchange services aim to prevent the transmission of blood-borne diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis C and keep discarded and used syringes off the streets.

The charity hopes that if this pilot is successful, it could ‘pave the way for automated and 24-hour dispensers being introduced in other parts of the UK in the future’.