Healthcare worker who helped tackle Edinburgh HIV epidemic up for lifetime award

Edinburgh was known as the ‘HIV capital of Europe’ in the mid-1980s.

Lucinda Cameron
Monday 17 January 2022 00:01
James Shanley has been nominated for an award (NHS Lothian/Skills for Health/PA)
James Shanley has been nominated for an award (NHS Lothian/Skills for Health/PA)

A healthcare worker credited with helping to turn the tide of Edinburgh’s HIV epidemic in the 1980s has been nominated for a lifetime contribution award.

Colleagues who nominated James Shanley for the Our Health Heroes award said he had undoubtedly saved many lives and reduced HIV rates in the city.

In the mid-1980s Edinburgh was known as the “HIV capital of Europe”, with up to 85% of the city’s heroin users estimated to be HIV positive.

Mr Shanley, 62, has managed the NHS Lothian Harm Reduction Team for the majority of his professional career, and has led on numerous projects to help counter the wave of HIV and Hepatitis C infections (HCV) that hit the city around 30 years ago.

There is no one more deserving for this award

Con Lafferty, mental health nurse

Mental health nurse Con Lafferty, who nominated him for the award, said: “James is a true role model for all those he works with and has cared for.

“He has helped countless people who inject drugs across our city become substance-free, get back into employment and live healthy and productive lives.

“There is no one more deserving for this award.”

The Our Health Heroes Lifetime Contribution Award, delivered by Skills for Health, is sponsored by NHS Employers.

Throughout his career he has shown incredible commitment and his work has undoubtedly saved many lives

Tracey McKigen, NHS Lothian

Health experts said that the most at-risk groups in Edinburgh were now in a much better place thanks to Mr Shanley’s dedicated contribution and the work of others in the field, while HCV infection levels in Edinburgh and south-east Scotland were now well below the national average.

His “pioneering work” in the development of the Needle Exchange Outreach Network, which improves patient access to services such as opiate substitute treatments, injecting equipment provision and blood-borne virus  testing and treatment, will soon become the national standard for Scotland due to its success in combating drug-related deaths in the capital.

Tracey McKigen, services director of Royal Edinburgh and Associated Services for NHS Lothian, said: “We are very proud of James in NHS Lothian for everything he has achieved.

“Throughout his career he has shown incredible commitment and his work has undoubtedly saved many lives, reduced HIV rates, and is helping to eradicate HCV as a public health concern by 2024.

“We wish James the best of luck with this award as he truly deserves it.”

Our Health Heroes, now in its sixth year, was created to champion real people who are at the heart of the healthcare system.

The winners will be announced in a ceremony at the London Science Museum in March.

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