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University first to train all nurses to use anti-drug overdose kits

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A student nurse simulating an injection

All student nurses at the University of Bradford will now receive training on how to use naloxone; a life saving medication which can reverse overdoses caused by opiates.

The training, which will be given to around 400 student nurses every year, is being delivered in partnership with New Vision Bradford, which is commissioned to deliver drug and alcohol treatment in the area.

Assistant Professor Natalie Finch, pictured below, a registered mental health nurse who is experienced In working with people who use opiates said teaching nurses how to use the kits was a first for the university.

Dr Natalie Finch

“Naloxone has been available in the UK for individuals to carry for around 10 years. Whilst nurse education requires students to know how to respond to emergencies such as someone’s heart stopping, choking, or serious allergic reaction, there is currently no national requirement for nurses to know how to respond to an overdose. We think this is wrong.  We are, as far as we know, the first university in the UK to train all our nurses in how to administer naloxone.

“This is about harm reduction. One element of that is how do we stop people dying of preventable overdoses. One of the things we can do is train people to use naloxone kits, which when administered immediately temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, which buys valuable time for the emergency services to attend.

“Naloxone kits are simple to use and widely available and can make a huge difference on the rate of  deaths by overdose, which has been growing year on year for some time.”

The training comes at a time when the illegal drug market in the UK (and across the world) is undergoing massive change, with heroin being replaced by a range of much stronger and more deadly synthetic opiods.

Dr Amanada Briggs

Registered nurse Assistant Professor Amanda Briggs, pictured above, said: “I have interest in looking at health holistically and teaching our students to do the same. A person is behind every statistic relating to harm for drug overdosing. I want nursing students as future registrants to be the difference they want to see made, to have a positive impact on those we serve in healthcare provision and offer care dependent upon need. We are intent on preparing our students to be the best they can be. This training gives our nursing students skills they would not otherwise receive, and a skill which could potentially save someone’s life.”

Jon Findlay, national harm reduction lead for Humankind, the national charity that leads the New Vision Bradford partnership, said: “This is the first time we have done mass training of this sort and it has been very useful, both in terms of delivering the training and also being able to address the stigma around drug use.

“Naloxone is an amazing medicine and I believe it should be in every first aid kit and alongside every defibrillator in the country. This is ultimately about reducing deaths from drug overdoses. Some have argued it might encourage drug use but there is no evidence for that. That is rather like saying wearing a seat belt encourages you to drive more recklessly.”

Dr Natalie Finch Jon Findlay and Dr Amanda Briggs

Pictured above: Dr Natalie Finch, Jon Findlay and Dr Amanda Briggs

What is naloxone and how does it work?

Naloxone is a medicine that rapidly reverses an opioid overdose. It attaches to opioid receptors in the brain and reverses and blocks the effects of other opioids. 

It was first developed in the early 1960s and began to be more widely used in the 1970s. In the UK, Naloxone is a prescription only medicine regulated by the Human Medicines Regulations 2012.

In January 2024, the Department of Health and Social Care published a review in which it recommended relaxing the rules around the use of naloxone, to make it easier for treatment centres to access and administer naloxone. Government ministers have also signalled their willingness to make naloxone more widely available.

In a consultation published in January, over 90 per cent of respondents agreed that outreach and day services, temporary or supported accommodation services, drug treatment workers, police officers, prison officers, nurses and paramedics should be able to supply naloxone without a prescription.