Exploration of a peer-based harm reduction hub in London

A project by the London Joint Working Group on Substance Use and Hepatitis C (LJWG) to develop a harm reduction hub in Hackney has been featured as a case study in the latest UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) ‘Shooting Up’ report on injection drug harms.

Published today in the report, the case study says:

Exploration of a peer-based harm reduction hub in London

To reduce the harms associated with injecting drug use, Hackney Council commissioned the London Joint Working Group on Substance Use and Hepatitis C (LJWG) to scope the feasibility of developing a peer-based harm reduction hub, which would be accessible to people across London.

With funding from the ADDER Accelerate Programme (53), the scoping project included i) focus groups with PWID and peers working in the sector, ii) interviews with commissioners and public health specialists, and iii) an overview of existing international evidence on peer-based harm reduction initiatives.

The project found strong support for a new harm reduction service where people could access all the equipment they need, be signposted to other services where appropriate, and receive support from peers who understand their circumstances. A strong vision emerged of a welcoming, inclusive and diverse service designed to meet the multiple complex needs of PWID, especially for those who find it hard to access or engage with traditional services.

Based on these recommendations, a service specification is now being developed for an inclusive, non-judgemental peer-based harm reduction hub. Peers with lived experience will be involved at every stage of the development and delivery of the service, with volunteer and paid positions available. The service will aim to provide a range of services including needle exchange, wound care and blood-borne virus testing, along with linkage to treatment and support for housing, benefits and mental health. The feasibility of outreach services, including an out-of-hours needle exchange vending machine and a van service, are also being explored.

If the service is approved, it will be designed as a psychologically informed environment. It will offer a welcoming space with basic comforts including warm drinks, food, bathrooms, and a space for healthcare needs. People will be able to access a full range of equipment with no quantity caps. Data collection on service use will be minimal and anonymised so that this does not act as a barrier to access, but will allow the service to evaluate impact through monitoring the number and type of equipment being taken by clients and risk of reuse.

Development of the hub is being led by a Strategy Group, that includes representation from both providers and commissioners, and a mirror Service User Group that will ensure service user insights are demonstrably shaping service delivery and outcomes. Funding for the prospective service is likely to be through a partnership between Hackney Council and NHS England, with a plan to open the service in 2023.

The full report can be accessed here.