Needle exchange service in Sleaford dropped after alleged abuse of staff

The original announcement by Boots. ABCDE EMN-170407-111645001
The original announcement by Boots. ABCDE EMN-170407-111645001

A temporary needle exchange service for drug addicts is being set up in Sleaford after the pharmacy that had provided it pulled out due to alleged threats and abuse of staff.

Boots had been providing the scheme for drug users in town in conjunction with Addaction, the drug and alcohol dependency service.

A Boots UK spokesman said: “We understand that the needle exchange service is very important, however the safety of all of our colleagues and customers is our first priority. We can confirm that with guidance from Addaction, we made the difficult decision last week to withdraw the needle exchange service from our Sleaford pharmacy.”

On hearing the announcement last week, Town Councillor Stephanie Dale spoke to the store, keen to make sure Sleaford does not lose out.

She said: “Staff members at Boots have been threatened and abused and that cannot happen, but that still leaves Sleaford with a problem.”

Coun Dale said: “I do not want my community to be put at risk where people are walking, maybe with their dogs, and find needles or tread on them and becomed infected, so we need something done.”

Coun Dale has been trying to arrange a temporary alternative with the Addaction keyworker Clare McCarthy who has a base in Sleaford Foyer and meets clients there three times a week.

Coun Dale said: “It is better to have somewhere to dispose of them than just leaving them in the Market Place, the GP’s toilets or public toilets.”

An Addaction spokesman added: “We are working with the local council to find a long-term alternative solution for needle exchange. In the interim, Boots in Grantham continues to operate as a needle exchange and Addaction Grantham offers ongoing support for drug misuse. If anyone sees any used needles and syringes they should not under any circumstance attempt to pick them up. Instead, please call environmental health who will arrange safe disposal.”

Addaction emphasised the importance of needle exchanges to meet a variety of health needs for people who use image and performance enhancing drugs such as steroids, and people who inject drugs such as opiates.

It explains that as well as providing safe disposal of used sharps, needle exchanges reduce the risk of injury or infection from reusing or sharing needles, and are a useful first point of contact for advice. Most needle exchanges also provide free blood borne virus testing and contraceptives, and can become a gateway to accessing further help.

Fern Hensley, Contracts Manager for Addaction Lincolnshire, said: “Pharmacy-based needle exchanges help people access support from the high street, and also support people with other issues such as nutrition, nicotine replacement therapy and more.

“We understand that in this case there were difficulties and we respect the decision of Boots Sleaford to close the service. We are working with them to wind down the needle exchange service which will close at the end of this month. Addaction are currently scoping suitable local alternatives.”

○ Police say they are responding to concerns raised about drug users discarding needles in public places around Southfields estate.

A woman resident, who wished not to be named, said a dog walker came across used syringes on the path to Mareham Pastures and an addict there taking drugs.

She said: “We have children playing and they could be picking something up which they shouldn’t.”

She was concerned for locals’ safety as the area may be being used by drug dealers.

Insp Marc Gee of Sleaford police said: “In relation to the concerns raised, we are aware that there have recently been reports of drug use and dealing in various locations around Sleaford.

“Locally we are briefing and tasking officers to pay particular attention to individuals that we believe are causing the problems and have recently executed warrants to target those involved. We have also made arrests recently including two males for burglary and another for several thefts who was also wanted on warrant.

“These actions will continue utilising the staff that we have at our disposal, but obviously we need help from the public to identify locations and times that are being used so we can patrol the relevant areas at the appropriate time.”

He said: “I would encourage the public to call in on 101 to report these issues or if they have any information and want to remain anonymous they can also call crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”