First UK safe drug consumption room to open by September 2024, says local authority

Exclusive: A spokesperson for Glasgow City Council said its safe drug consumption room may be able to open ahead of schedule.
drug consumption kit

The UK’s first safe drug consumption facility could open in Glasgow at the end of August or early September 2024, a spokesperson for Glasgow City Council has confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal.

A 24-week building work programme to prepare the facility began in March 2024, but the spokesperson said it was hoped that the facility would open ahead of schedule.

Plans for the safer drug consumption facility (SDCF), which will allow people to use drugs in a sterile environment under medical supervision, as well as access to other related services, were approved in September 2023 by the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board.

A progress report for the Board, produced by the Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership in May 2024, said that people with lived experience of drug use and recovery have been supporting with the design of the SDCF, which will be located at the Hunter Street Health and Social Care Centre.

It said that recruitment for roles at the facility was ongoing and that it was the aim for all posts to be filled by July 2024.

The facility will include a shower room and clothing store, as well as a secure smoking area for people using the service. Those using the facility will be able to access other services, including GP appointments, treatment care services for blood-borne viruses, sexual health teams, housing officers, welfare officers and peer support workers.

The report also said that Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership is working with Police Scotland to establish a community forum, where concerns from local residents and businesses “can be raised and resolved as quickly as possible once the service is operational”.

The opening of a safe drug consumption facility in Glasgow was first recommended in an NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde report — ‘Taking away the chaos: the health needs of people who inject drugs in public spaces in Glasgow city centre’ — which was published in 2016, following an outbreak of HIV in people who injected drugs in the city.

Plans to open a facility had previously been blocked by the UK government, with an attempt by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee to allow for a pilot in Glasgow rejected by the UK government in 2020.

A House of Commons Home Affairs Committee report on illegal drug use in the UK, published in August 2023, recommended legalising safe consumption facilities, and the Scottish National Party committed to introducing a “framework” to allow drug consumption facilities in its manifesto ahead of the 2024 General Election.

The current pilot scheme will be able to go ahead without changing legislative framework, after Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain KC, Scotland’s chief legal officer, said it would not be in the public interest to prosecute users for possession of illegal drugs while at the facility.

Commenting on the facility’s opening, Laura Wilson, director for Scotland at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said: “RPS Scotland supports any initiative that provides a safe and supportive environment for people who use drugs.

“This facility will offer a crucial service that can help reduce harm and prevent drug deaths.”

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, June 2024, Vol 312, No 7986;312(7986)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.321743

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