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The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on needle and syringe programme provision and coverage in England

Whitfield, M, Reed, H, Webster, J and Hope, V (2020) The impact of COVID-19 restrictions on needle and syringe programme provision and coverage in England. International Journal of Drug Policy. ISSN 0955-3959

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Abstract

Background
The restrictions introduced in response to COVID-19 present many challenges, particularly for vulnerable and marginalised populations. These include maintaining access to Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSPs) to reduce the harms associated with injecting drugs. NSPs effectiveness is coverage dependent, but lockdowns and social distancing limit NSP access and availability. The impact on NSP provision in England is explored using enhanced monitoring data.

Method
Data collected through an established comprehensive monitoring system from five four-week periods, centred on the implementation of restrictions in the UK in mid-March 2020, are examined. Weekly averages are compared to allow for public holidays and weekly variation in activity.

Results
The restrictions resulted in the number of NSP clients decreasing by 36%, visits by 36%, and needles distributed by 29%. NSP coverage for those injecting psychoactive drugs halved, declining from 14 needles per-week during the 4-weeks to 15th March 2020 to 7 needles per-week by mid-April, and coverage has remained at this level since then.

Conclusions
Though it is currently unclear if there has been a decline in injecting, the decline in NSP coverage is so marked that it almost certainly reflects decreased utilisation among those in need, indicating increased equipment reuse and risk.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 11 Medical and Health Sciences, 16 Studies in Human Society, 17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences
Subjects: R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Divisions: Public Health Institute
Publisher: Elsevier
Date Deposited: 16 Jul 2020 13:11
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2020 13:15
DOI or Identification number: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2020.102851
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13321

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