CLAHRC West and HPRU gain £20k ESRC award to create infographics to reduce harm from injecting drugs

28 September 2017

NIHR CLAHRC West and the Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Evaluation of Interventions have been awarded a grant to produce infographics and training materials for people who inject drugs and needle and syringe programme staff. The materials will aim to encourage the use of appropriate injecting equipment, including detachable low dead space syringes, and harm reduction practices.

The grant of nearly £20,000 was an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award through the University of Bristol. It will fund the development, production and dissemination of these materials, which aim to change practice and reduce the harm associated with injecting drugs.

This project is a collaboration with Bristol Drugs Project, Exchange Supplies, Public Health England and Bristol City Council and builds on our previous research project with these partners. It will:

  • create resources based on our research findings
  • use infographics to encourage harm reduction practices, aimed at people who inject drugs and needle and syringe programme staff
  • include training materials for needle and syringe programme staff and evidence for policy makers

Our research aimed to understand whether people who inject drugs would be willing to switch to new injecting equipment that has the potential to reduce the transmission of blood-borne viruses. It was also a step towards developing evidence-based recommendations and interventions to support the use of this equipment.

What is the problem that’s being addressed?

Needle and syringe programmes supply sterile equipment to people who inject drugs, to reduce the transmission of blood-borne viruses and other infections caused by sharing injecting equipment.

However, sometimes needles and syringes still get re-used or shared. This increases the chance of spreading infections such as HIV and hepatitis C.

The likelihood of spreading these infections is influenced by the type of equipment. Research suggests that this new type of ‘low dead space’ syringe with a detachable needle could reduce the spread of infections as it limits the space between the syringe hub and needle. Supplying them through needle and syringe programmes can help protect people who inject drugs from infection.

Though detachable low dead space syringes are available they are not yet widely distributed through needle and syringe programmes. They need support to implement them.

Our research found people who inject drugs are likely to accept detachable low dead space syringes. It produced recommendations for introducing them in needle and syringe programmes.

Our unique and ground-breaking stakeholder engagement event, supported by PolicyBristol, also highlighted the need for up-to-date training materials to support wider harm reduction practices in needle exchange programmes.

What will we do?

We will produce infographics focusing on six key messages, as well as training materials and evidence briefings. These materials will help us engage with needle exchanges, service users and policy makers.

We will begin by consulting our partners, other needle exchange experts and service users on the content and design of the materials. This will ensure the messages are appropriate for a range of contexts.

We will share the final materials electronically as well as sending hard copies to all UK drug services.

What are the likely benefits of this project?

This work supports interventions to minimise transmission of Hepatitis C and HIV among people who inject drugs. It will influence the advice given to service users in needle exchanges, as well as what injecting equipment they provide. It will spread and enhance harm reduction practices among both needle exchanges and people who inject drugs.