Prescribe heroin to addicts on the NHS, says nursing leader

The leader of Britain's nurses gave his personal backing for schemes to provide heroin to drug addicts on the NHS yesterday.

Peter Carter, the general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), said the strategy could drive down crime rates and reduce street sales of the drug. Results from clinics in London, Brighton and Darlington have shown that allowing drug users heroin injections under medical supervision could cut local crime rates by up to two thirds.

Speaking after a debate on the issue at the RCN's annual conference in Bournemouth, Dr Carter said: "I do believe in heroin prescribing. The fact is, heroin is very addictive. People who are addicted so often resort to crime, to steal to buy the heroin. It obviates the need for them to steal.

"It might take a few years but I think people will understand. If you are going to get people off heroin then in the initial stages we have to have proper heroin prescribing services. Critics say you are encouraging drug addiction but the reality is that these people are addicts and they are going to do it anyway."

Dr Carter stressed he was speaking in a personal capacity and his remarks did not reflect RCN policy.

In the scheme, which has run for more than three years, three quarters of the 127 drug users "substantially reduced" their consumption of street drugs and their spending on the substances fell from £300 to £50 a week.

During the debate on the issue at the RCN's conference, several nurses supported the approach. Claire Topham Brown, from Cambridgeshire, said providing heroin on the NHS could stop or reduce illegal drug use and crime, cut the transmission of viruses like HIV and hepatitis and provide a "stepping stone" to get people off heroin and on to the heroin substitute methadone.

But Gail Brooks, from the RCN's UK safety representatives committee, opposed the idea, saying: "Where would this stop? If you do this for heroin, do you have to do this for every other drug out there? Can our NHS afford this?"

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
tech
Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SEN Teachers and Support Staff

    £50 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an SEN Teacher or L...

    English and Media Teacher

    £100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English & Media Teacher - ...

    Y1 Teacher

    £90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Y1 Teacher required for a So...

    Senior Financial Services Associate - City

    Highly Competitive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - FINANCIAL SERVICES - Senior...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week