Council staff to be able to administer medicine to counter suspected drug overdoses

More City Council staff will be invited to volunteer to learn how to administer a life-saving medicine to counter a suspected opioid drug overdose, after a committee decision today (Monday 12 April).

The staff governance committee agreed unanimously to the move where frontline staff working in identified priority geographical areas will be able to access the Naloxone kits for either them or the public to administer.

Naloxone is a safe and easily administered medication which can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. It is not a controlled substance and has no effect on anyone who has not taken opioid drugs.

Article 7 of the Medicines Act states that anyone can administer Naloxone for the purpose of saving a life and Aberdeen City Council has been able to administer it since 2014 in services which support homeless people.

Until last year, only specialised drug treatment services were able to distribute Naloxone kits to people concerned about overdose. However, in May 2020, the Lord Advocate issued a statement of policy stating that for the period of disruption caused by COVID-19, any individual working for a service registered with the Scottish Government is able, without prosecution, to supply Naloxone to another person for use in an emergency to save a life. This allows non-drug treatment services to distribute Naloxone.

This policy only applies to services registered with the Scottish Government Population Health Directorate through the local Naloxone lead and is subject to the condition that appropriate instruction on the use of Naloxone and basic life support training will be provided to persons receiving the medication for such use.

The City Council will implement a “test of change” within identified priority geographical areas to increase Naloxone kits distributed to members of the public via council services, increase the number of employees able to access the kits for distribution, and seek volunteers from staff working in priority areas to undertake training to administer it to individuals suspected of drug overdose.

Aberdeen City Council staff governance committee convener Councillor Yvonne Allan said: “This is an important step in helping to prevent deaths by drug overdosing and I welcome the committee’s decision today.

“We look forward to hearing updates on the scheme to the committee.”

The report to committee said in 2019, 38 opioid overdose related deaths were recorded in Aberdeen, 2,600 people are currently estimated to use opioid drugs problematically and in the first three months of 2021, there has been a significant increase in suspected drug related deaths with upwards of 10 in the month of March alone.

The report said any registered organisation, with the provision of appropriate instruction and training, may currently distribute Naloxone kits to people. Kits can be distributed by any trained person to people who are at risk of overdose themselves or to family and friends who are likely to encounter an overdose situation.

Increasing the distribution of Naloxone, with the aim of reducing the number of fatal drug related overdoses, is one of the main priorities of the national Drug Death Task Force. This is also recognised through the priorities of Community Planning Aberdeen and the City’s Alcohol and Drugs Partnership

In addition to staff in ACC’s homeless service being trained, housing staff have also been trained to distribute Naloxone and raise their awareness of the drug, although none have yet been trained to administer it. A total of 14 staff within the housing access and support service have been trained through ‘train the trainer’ and are now cascading this training further.

Locally provided, publicly facing council services are well placed to support vulnerable individuals and communities.

The report said volunteers will be sought from relevant staff groups to undertake training in the distribution and/or administration of Naloxone and appropriate training will be provided with instruction from NHS partners. Trade union colleagues will also be involved so any questions, suggestions or concerns can be readily addressed.

Potential frontline workers who could be offered the opportunity to voluntarily undertake the training, working within the geographical areas highlighted, could include colleagues working particularly within early intervention and community empowerment such as libraries or housing staff, along with operational staff working in services such as waste or facilities management. Identification of appropriate staff groups will be undertaken with service managers, and volunteers then sought.