Scottish Pharmacy Alliance: A Drug Harms Collaborative

DRNS is always keen to welcome blogs from people and groups working across the field. We were particularly pleased to receive this update from Vikki Laing about the first meeting of the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance because it shows the power of working together to better support those dealing with problematic substance use. If you are a pharmacist that is inspired by this blog to be involved in forthcoming meetings of the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance, please get in touch through DRNS at

On 16th May 2022, the inaugural meeting of the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance: A Drug Harms Collaborative was held in Glasgow. The concept for the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance began with a conversation between two pharmacists with one shared vision: to put out an urgent call to action for the pharmacy workforce to come together and support the aim to tackle the drug deaths crisis.

As ex-chair of the Drug Deaths Taskforce, founding member Professor Catriona Matheson knows all too well the gravity of the situation, with Scotland reporting the highest number of drug deaths in history – higher than any other European country. From this, stems her ambition to help pharmacy to maximise its contribution to addressing this public health emergency. The Pharmacy Alliance brings together an impressive group of substance use experts and senior pharmacy colleagues from across Scotland with the aim of generating ideas, sharing thinking, and creating momentum for change and progress. After a round of introductions, the conversation at this first meeting swiftly moved on to focus on what pharmacy can do. There was a shared acknowledgement that community pharmacies are ideally placed to offer crucial treatment and support to people who use drugs, and pharmacy teams have the skills and knowledge to make a positive difference to the patient journey. There was recognition and praise for what pharmacy already does, and a willingness to build on this and strive for excellence in the delivery of care to people who use drugs.

The Scottish Pharmacy Alliance recognised that while the drug deaths crisis is an emergency that must be addressed, responses must also build a sustainable prevention approach. Against the backdrop of the recently published Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) Standards and the RPS Drugs Policy recommendations, the Alliance brainstormed, debated, challenged, listened, and began to shape commitments. One of the priorities identified by the Alliance is to continue to drive down stigma in order to support people to access and remain in treatment for as long as they need to. This can be supported by increasing the awareness of psychological trauma in the pharmacy workforce and ensuring this type of training is embedded within all levels of education. It was recognised that listening carefully to people with lived experience will be crucial when shaping our response, and so there was a commitment to capture and learn from more patient stories. There was also interest around an innovative proposal for a new feasibility study into how we might enhance referral pathways, signposting and advocacy from community pharmacy. There was agreement that it is right for every pharmacy in Scotland to have naloxone available for use in an emergency, and a willingness to continue work towards achieving this nationally.

The first meeting of the Scottish Pharmacy Alliance confirmed a shared desire to do the right thing for people who use drugs in Scotland, and by working in collaboration it is hoped that the pharmacy workforce can make a significant contribution to reducing drug harms and overdose risk in Scotland.

Vikki Laing

Categories: News & BlogPublished On: August 25, 2022

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