Outgoing police boss says nasal spray antidote to drug overdose is his ‘proudest achievement’
Police across North Wales will be equipped with a nasal spray which acts as an antidote to a drugs overdose after two lives were saved during a pilot project.
The use of Naloxone has been championed by outgoing North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner who said it was one of his proudest achievements ahead of standing down at the election on May 6.
According to North Wales Police, nobody will be forced to carry or use the spray but there was “no shortage” of volunteers who wanted to participate. Officers will use personal protective equipment and facemasks if they need to administer it.
The spray can be used to treat overdoses of drugs including heroin, fentanyl and prescription painkillers.
Arfon Jones, a long-time drug reform campaigner, said the reason he was so passionate about the rollout being expanded across North Wales was that the UK already had more drug deaths than anywhere else in Europe.
The Covid-19 pandemic had made the situation even more urgent because people with problematic drugs use were going to be taking more dangerous alternatives if their drug of choice was in short supply, he said.
Flintshire saw 21 deaths due to drugs in the most recent two-year period, from 2016-2018, more than a fifth of the North Wales Police region total.
The first life saved in the trial happened a month earlier when another of the volunteer team, Sergeant Gill Roberts, based in Mold, was called to a hotel car park by officers who had found a man unconscious.
Sergeant Roberts, a policewoman for 23 years, said: “A firearms unit had found a man lying in the car park of the Holiday Inn in Northop after his family reported him missing with concerns around his mental health.”
Within 30 seconds after she used the spray, he regained consciousness and was taken to hospital.
Arfon Jones, a former police inspector, said: “My vision had always been to rollout out this initiative across North Wales.
“Seeing this happen is one of my proudest moments during my term of office. Naloxone has already saved two lives in North Wales and it will now save many more lives in future.
“That’s incredibly important because the first principle of policing is that we’re there to save lives and protect people. It’s part of our core business.
“Naloxone is like a defibrillator and I see no difference between it and using a defibrillator on someone who has had a heart attack.
“I’m glad to say other forces are now looking to follow suit while Police Scotland have trained and deployed over 200 officers who can administer Naloxone and look to extend this to beyond 700.
“I’d also like to thank Gill Roberts from Mold who has been at the forefront of sourcing the FFP3 masks for officers trained to administer Naloxone while Inspector Iwan Jones has been instrumental in getting this important initiative off the ground.”
Inspector Iwan Jones said: “Getting the naloxone spray gives us something we can use to prevent a death.
“It’s a simple nasal spray, there’s no injections involved, and the officers have all undergone training in its use. It’s something we’ve all volunteered to do.
“The victim probably won’t be breathing and you simply put it into the nose and spray and it works virtually instantly, in two or three minutes.”
Deputy Chief Constable Richard Debicki has also played a key role in making the rollout happen.
He said: “The science behind Naloxone is well researched and its effectiveness in preventing death from overdoses is comprehensively documented.
“I am really grateful that some officers in Flintshire have been voluntarily carrying Naloxone over the past six months or so by way of a pilot, and Naloxone was used operationally on two occasions, both of which we believe resulted in saving of lives – there was rightly a real sense of satisfaction from those officers deploying it on these occasions.
“The pilot in Flintshire has captured the attention of not only the UK media but also of other forces.
“North Wales Police is now seen as the flagship in this area of harm reduction and one and many other forces are now following our lead and exploring the use of Naloxone.
“We are really clear that at this time only officers who volunteer to do so will carry Naloxone.
“Anyone who does volunteer will get full training and support and can withdraw from the scheme at any time.
“This initiative undeniably supports the core priority for officers in protection and preservation of life.
“It will in no way replace or interfere with the ambulance service who will still be required to attend to the patient, however officers equipped with the Naloxone spray will be able to immediately administer as part of the initial first aid response and potentially save the patient’s life.”