Sleaford pharmacy to trial UK’s first ever needle exchange dispenser machine

Chris Mulimba, from Riverside Pharmacy and Dimple Oza from Addaction with the pioneering needle dispensing machine. EMN-180116-131923001
Chris Mulimba, from Riverside Pharmacy and Dimple Oza from Addaction with the pioneering needle dispensing machine. EMN-180116-131923001

The county’s drugs support service, Addaction, has developed a vending machine to dispense clean needles for drug users at a pharmacy in Sleaford - a first for the UK.

The custom-built dispenser has been installed in the Riverside Pharmacy within Sleaford Medical Group and was launched on January 2, to address the limited provision since Boots pharmacy pulled its service to protect staff from abuse.

The aim of the needle exchange service is to reduce rates of used needle sharing among drug users, limiting risk of infection while protecting the wider community, but since September, Sleaford has had to rely on a mobile exchange service.

Dimple Oza, Senior Pharmacist for Addaction Lincolnshire, and Cilicia Wyman, a Recovery Worker on the Needle Syringe Programme, saw this as a potential risk to users and researched needle exchange vending machines popular in Australia as the way forward.

If this pilot is successful, it could pave the way for automated, 24-hour dispensers being introduced in other parts of the UK.

Superintendent at Riverside Pharmacy, Chris Mulimba, said: “Clients enter, place their used needles into a bin and are given a token which they slot in the machine to obtain their sterilised pack. In each pack they will also find a harm reduction information leaflet and local contacts for Addaction should they need help.”

Mr Oza said: “Addaction’s sterile needle dispenser in Sleaford, although not 100 per cent automated, was considered an ideal solution for numerous reasons. For instance, pharmacy staff do not need to handle needles; it’s a quicker and easier process for all concerned; it frees up pharmacy staff time; takes up no space behind the counter; and saves costs on building modifications which may have been necessary in a traditional needle exchange setting.”

Ms Wyman said: “We’re pleased the research and recommendations were implemented. Sleaford is an isolated town and simply to have mobile needle exchange provision could have been putting people at risk. This new service will reduce the risks considerably and provide a better service for the whole community”

Addaction Contracts Manager for Lincolnshire, Fern Hensley, added: “We’re excited to have the first-ever needle exchange dispensing machine in a pharmacy in Lincolnshire and hope that in time this will lead to other UK towns and cities providing a similar service.”

The dispenser is located within the consultation room at The Riverside Pharmacy.

Mr Mulimba, said: “I feel strongly that drug users should be helped, not judged or stigmatised, and this is The Riverside Pharmacy’s chance to play a part in this.

“It’s safe and secure; people can access sterilised equipment, find local support, hopefully go into recovery and improve their lives.”

Addaction is commissioned by Lincolnshire County Council to run substance and alcohol misuse service for adults and young people throughout Lincolnshire.

The charity operates from over 10 hub sites throughout Lincolnshire as well as its main offices in Lincoln, Grantham and Boston. Outreach is available in all areas.

A 24-hour Freephone manned SPOC referral line for anyone who requires support for themselves or others, is in place all of Lincolnshire on 0800 3047021.

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For information about Addaction nationally, go to