Statement on Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme

NSES thumb

The Public Health Agency (PHA) and Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have maintained regular communication and support with J McGregor Chemist over their provision of a Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme (NSES) at their pharmacy on Botanic Avenue, Belfast. 

J McGregor Chemist has taken the decision to withdraw the NSES from their Botanic Avenue pharmacy. 

The pharmacy has been an integral part of the NSES for more than 23 years and has provided a highly valuable health service to the local community, which we sincerely thank them for.

The PHA and HSCB will continue to work alongside J McGregor Chemist and service users to phase-out the NSES at the pharmacy by the end of August 2020.  Transfer arrangements to ensure access of service users to alternative NSES services will be carried out in a managed and safe manner.

Those who use and require the service will continue to have full access to needle exchange services.

Service users will be redirected to other needle exchange community pharmacies, and for clients with more complex needs, community-based service providers, including the Belfast Drug Outreach team, Extern, the Belfast Trust’s Homelessness Team and Inclusion Health Service, will be providing continued support in response to need.

The Needle and Syringe Exchange Scheme (NSES) is vital to the health and wellbeing of the entire community and helps to reduce the potential of drug-related litter and lowers the risk of HIV and Hepatitis B and C within the wider population. The service also puts clients in direct contact with a health professional who can help them engage with treatment services to address their drug misuse. 

The NSES is a free, confidential health service for people who inject drugs and are based in areas where there is an existing pattern of people who inject, in order to help protect everyone in the community.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) currently funds 21 community pharmacies and four Health & Social Care Trust services who deliver the needle exchange services across Northern Ireland. To help cater for the diverse needs of those who require a needle exchange service, a community-based service is also currently being piloted in Belfast as well as Low Threshold services that provide the service on an outreach basis across Northern Ireland.

HSCB and PHA are continually reviewing need, access and service provision for those who access NSES.

Anyone who injects substances can and do use needle exchange services. This includes people who inject opioids, steroids, tanning agents or stimulants.

A total of 33,992 visits were made to exchange needles and syringes across Northern Ireland in the 21 needle and syringe exchange services operating during the period 1 April 2018 and 31 March 2019.

17,386 of these visits (51%) were made by residents of the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area. 


Notes for editors

In addition to the valuable work undertaken at the needle exchanges, in the Belfast area the PHA and partner organisations fund additional programmes to address the complex needs of injecting drug users:

•    The Street Injectors Support Services (SISS), in collaboration with Belfast PCSP, and Belfast City Council, aims to reduce drug related litter in the city centre area and engage with intravenous drug users, signposting them to services and giving advice on safer use and disposal. 

•    The Dual Diagnosis Street Team Project works intensively with those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, who have co-morbidity. The experienced social workers engage with this group or service users on the streets and in the night shelters linking them to services when appropriate. Much of the work is harm reduction, looking at stabilising mental ill health and reducing the impact of alcohol and drug use. This project involves working with PSNI, homeless bed providers, NI Housing Executive (NIHE) and medical practitioners on a daily basis and the networking and links are vital to the service’s success. It is currently funded by Belfast PCSP and PHA.

•    The Drug Accommodation Support Project has been running for 10 years and involves addressing the needs of intravenous drugs users by working closely with the Salvation Army and Extern’s Ormeau Centre to provide intensive support to intravenous drug users who are housed within their hostels. The project worker is funded by the PHA and is overseen by a multiagency group chaired by PHA and including NIHE, PSNI and Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. The worker supports clients through the agreement of individualised support plans to access and engage with treatment/ support services.