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Plans for heroin to be prescribed to addicts in West Midlands | Politics | UK News


Police and crime commissioner David Jamieson sets out policy at odds with national approach

Clean syringes will be available with medical staff on standby.






Clean syringes will be available with medical staff on standby.
Photograph: Luis Robayo/AFP/Getty Images

Doctors in the West Midlands could soon be prescribing heroin for addicts, who would be invited to inject themselves with clean syringes in drug consumption rooms with medical staff on standby, under a plan put forward by the region’s police and crime commissioner (PCC).

In a document published on Monday morning, David Jamieson set out a number of recommendations for a regional drugs policy sharply at odds with the government’s zero-tolerance approach.

The proposals, which follow a regional drugs policy summit held in December, also include a mechanism to divert criminals who use drugs into treatment rather than the justice system, equipping police with the overdose treatment naxalone, and introducing on-site drug testing in nightclubs.

“If we are to cut crime and save lives there’s one thing we can all agree on: we need fresh ideas,” Jamieson said. “These are bold but practical proposals that will reduce crime, the cost to the public purse and the terrible harm caused by drugs.

“By the end of my term of office in 2020, I hope many of these proposals are in place and having an effect – reducing crime, but also the suffering of those addicted to drugs. These proposals will save the public sector money by reducing the strain on services that currently exists.”

The Royal Society for Public Health and the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) joined drug law reform groups in support of the plan. But the Home Office said there were no plans to introduce drug consumption rooms, nor to create a legal framework to allow for them.

A spokesperson said: “A range of offences is likely to be committed in the operation of drug consumption rooms. We expect local police forces to enforce the law in such circumstances.”

Danny Kushlick, of the pro-reform Transform Drugs Policy Foundation, said the government’s response was “prioritising propaganda over people’s lives”. Health service figures published last week revealed that hospital admissions in England for drug-related mental health problems had reached a record high. Figures from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction last year showed that almost one in three of the continent’s drug overdoses occurred in the UK.

Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the RSPH, said Jamieson’s “important and welcome” proposals would add momentum to “commonsense drug policy reform” in Britain. Hardyal Dhindsa, the alcohol and drugs lead at the APCC, said the report showed that PCCs were “leading the way” in new approaches to drugs. “Drug abuse isn’t a problem that can be addressed by policing alone, nor should it be, and the terrible cost of destructive drug use cannot be overlooked,” he said.

Fiona Measham, the founder of the drug-testing charity the Loop, said she was pleased to see plans for the kinds of services she and her colleagues had begun offering at festivals to be rolled out to urban centres.

Jamieson is the latest PCC to use his devolved powers to advocate for a shift in drug policy. Ron Hogg in Durham, Alan Charles in Derbyshire and Arfon Jones in North Wales have all called for changes in the approach to tackling drugs.

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