4 minute read
Pharmacy Students from the University of Bath have sent their thanks to BDP for the opportunity to visit our Health & Harm Reduction Centre, allowing them to meet staff and service users and find out more about the work we do to support people using drugs in Bristol.
Dr Jenny Scott from the Department of Pharmacy & Pharmacology wrote to BDP to share the thoughts and feedback of her pharmacy students, saying “I am writing to say a huge thank you to you and your team for the support given to my department and out final year students again this year… As usual, the student feedback suggests that the visits really embedded the importance of harm reduction in the minds of the students and have really helped reduce stigma.”
Before the visit I was very worried as I had not done anything like this before so did not know what to expect. I had false preconceptions on what the visit would be like due to the stigma towards drug users and drug services in the community. However, the visit was not as expected. It showed me the vast range of services that are offered and how they do not only benefit the drug users but also the community. From this experience I have learnt that there is much more to drug services than just providing equipment and medicines.
From speaking to service providers, I learnt that the relationship between users and providers of these services is crucial for its effectiveness. People will not listen to people whom they do not trust and as drug users tend not to trust legislative bodies due to past traumas, the relationship between user and provider is crucial in providing this service. Although I already knew that good relationships encourage people to access more care, I did not realise the sheer importance of this in drugs services and how neglected it is by healthcare providers. This will impact my future practice as I will ensure that all staff members understand the need for good communication with drug service users and how detrimental stigma can be to their treatment progression.
I was nervous about visiting because I was unsure how drug users would behave around students, and I think this stems from the hostile image the public makes of drug users. I expected BDP to be quiet because I assumed that drug users would refuse to access help. Upon reflection, I was surprised by the amount of people using the NSP (Needle & Syringe Programme) and the large team working for BDP. I realised that changing a person’s behaviour towards drugs is complex; individuals must be supported by a team to reduce harm and achieve abstinence.
The amount of work BDP undertakes, makes me value the pharmacies that offer NSP to ease the workload for BDP. Therefore during my preregistration year, I will play an active role in NSP to help drug users. I have realised that drug users are stigmatised, and it can be difficult for drug users to access help. I appreciate BDP’s efforts to preserve anonymity by opting for a discrete building to encourage drug users to enter. Acts of kindness are important. Therefore, I will incorporate phrases, like “how are you doing today?”, in my future practice to avoid stigma, allow service users to blend into society and prevent disengagement from care.
Each year, hundreds of pharmacy students from the University of Bath are given the opportunity to shadow BDP services. This year, Covid-19 brought student visits to an abrupt halt, with only 71 visits between February and March.
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Photo credit: University of Bath
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