Potential savings highlighted as Glasgow site identified for Safer Drug Consumption Facility

Glasgow’s Integrated Joint Board (IB) met today (21st June) to further discuss proposals to introduce a Safer Drug Consumption Facility and heroin assisted treatment in the city.

New developments in the process, which can be found in the submitted paper to the IJB, include the identification of a site for the UK’s first legal drug consumption room by council and NHS officials.

The site, owned by the city council, has been identified between Trongate, Saltmarket and the River Clyde and officials are discussing leasing arrangements.

It is hoped the facility in Glasgow city centre, which would allow users to take drugs under medical supervision, could be operational in early 2018.

The IJB said the annual cost of the service would be £2.36m, paid for by the city council and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, though proponents have stated that savings would be recuperated on spending across the wider NHS.

Dr Saket Priyadarshi, the health board’s associate medical director said: “There will be a benefit to the costs experienced in our acute services, hospitals, A&E departments, GP appointments, prisons, criminal justice system, housing etc.”

Users attending the services will be offered health care and other support such as housing and financial help.

Glasgow has an estimated 13,600 problem drug users – 3.2% of the city’s population.

The IJB said: “In terms of social costs incurred as a result of problem drug use, namely the cost to victims of crime, the cost of pain and suffering for the individuals themselves and their families caused by drug-related death, it is estimated that the annual cost of each problem drug user is £31,438.”

The proposals for a safer drug consumption facility (SDCF), with a separate service allowing some users to access heroin-assisted treatment (Hat), followed concern about a public health outbreak, following a steep rise in the number of HIV cases among people who inject drugs.

There are an estimated 90 new cases of HIV diagnosed in Glasgow among people who inject drugs in the city, which health officials say could cost the NHS more than £29m over the lifetime of the sufferers.

At least 78 cases diagnosed in Glasgow since 2015 could potentially create lifetime costs to the health service of £29.64m. This group has now grown to 90, with 12 infections already recorded to date this year.

David Liddell, Scottish Drugs Forum CEO, said drug consumption rooms had proved effective in other countries.

“They may seem controversial but when you see that these have been running in many countries in Europe for up to 30 years, you get a different perspective,” he said.

“Holland now has 31 drug consumption rooms and Germany has 24, for example.

“From these years of practice, clear evidence has emerged as to the effectiveness of these facilities.”

Click here to view the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde submission paper to the IJB