Low dead-space syringes have less space between the needle and plunger and thus retain less blood after use than traditional detachable injecting equipment. Their widespread use reduces the risk of spreading blood-borne infections if needles are re-used or shared by people who inject drugs. CLAHRC West's research with staff and service users from needle and syringe programmes, the Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team, and partners from Bristol City Council and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) found detachable low dead-space syringes are acceptable to people who inject drugs. CLAHRC West produced recommendations for the introduction of the new equipment by needle and syringe programmes to save money and prevent new infections. However, despite being available, they are not yet widely distributed due to a lack of awareness and confusion around types of low dead-space syringes and concerns about acceptability. With their partners, including Exchange Supplies who produce low dead-space syringes needles, CLAHRC West is co-producing resources for the translation and application of our research findings using infographics and training materials on harm-reduction strategies for people who inject drugs, needle and syringe programme staff and community pharmacists (who often exchange and supply needles and syringes for people who inject drugs who do not access specialist services); and evidence for policy-makers and commissioners to encourage the use of harm-reduction practices including low dead-space syringes. An ESRC Impact Acceleration Award is supporting a knowledge mobilisation fellow from Bristol Drugs Project to work with CLAHRC West to produce these materials, considering the different contexts of illegal drug use in the UK.
The work has been presented at the National Intelligence Network forum meeting on the health harms associated with drug-use, convened by the alcohol, drug and tobacco division of PHE’s health improvement directorate to explore how to use evidence to improve practice.
Contribution of CLAHRC West
NIHR CLAHRC West staff brought together staff and service users from needle and syringe programmes, partners from Bristol City Council including Bristol Drugs Project, the Drug and Alcohol Health Integration Team, and the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) to conduct the original research on the acceptability of low dead-space syringes. CLAHRC West is leading the design and conduct of the research, and implementation of findings. A researcher appointed by CLAHRC West and HPRU is leading the implementation work in collaboration with a knowledge mobilisation fellow from Bristol Drugs Project.
What happened next?
Following completion of the original research project, CLAHRC West obtained an ESRC Impact Acceleration Award. Using this, they visited and consulted with needle and syringe programmes in London, Liverpool, Bath, Wales and Scotland to produce a design brief for the infographics and other materials. The work has been presented at the National Intelligence Network forum meeting on the health harms associated with drug-use, convened by the alcohol, drug and tobacco division of PHE’s health improvement directorate to explore how to use evidence to improve practice. CLAHRC West research and implementation work is likely to affect the procurement of low dead-space syringes and safer injecting training nationally.
Read the CLAHRC BITE that CLAHRC West produced about this study, here.