UK’s first Home Office licensed regular drug-checking service to open

The UK’s first Home Office licensed regular drug-checking service will open this month, and be delivered by The Loop – a non-profit, harm-reduction organisation led by the University of Liverpool’s Professor Fiona Measham.

To be funded by Bristol City Council, operated by The Loop’s team of professional chemists and healthcare workers, and run in a multi-agency partnership with Bristol Drugs Project (BDP) and The People’s Republic of Stokes Croft (PRSC), the trailblazing evidence-based health service aims to reduce high risk drug-taking and build a fuller picture of the illicit drug market in the local area.

Illicit substances can be tested, with testing proven to reduce drug-related harm. Completely confidential and free to access, it is set to open its doors for the first time on 28th May 2022 and will run once a month, with additional opening hours around significant local events.

Director of The Loop and University of Liverpool Chair in Criminology, Professor Fiona Measham said: “As the first and only dedicated drug checking service provider in the UK, The Loop has been working for nearly a decade to establish regular drug checking services direct to the public and we are extremely grateful to the Home Office for issuing the licence to be able to offer this vital service.

“The Loop has a proven track record of designing and delivering evidence-based innovative interventions to engage with people otherwise not in touch with health services and to support them in making safer choices.

“Furthermore, the intelligence on local drug markets gained from drug checking is shared with stakeholders to inform emergency services, public health surveillance networks, and wider drug using communities.

“We would also like to thank our local partners for their support in introducing this ground-breaking multi-agency initiative.”

The new drug testing service aligns with the aspirations set out in the Bristol Drug and Alcohol strategy.

Bristol City Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Lead for Public Health, Communities, and Bristol One City, said: “We welcome The Loop’s successful application for a Home Office licence for a new Drug Testing Service for Bristol which is an innovative approach to saving lives and reducing harm to our communities.

“As the first city in the UK to have a regular drug checking service in the heart of the city we will be able to provide communities with access to factual, scientific, evidence-based information about drugs they may consume and that are in circulation throughout the wider city.

“This, alongside the one-on-one trained healthcare consultation, will empower people to make safer, informed decisions and access drug treatment and further support.

“Bristol is leading the way in this public health approach to keeping people safe around drugs shows that, as a city, we put our people’s wellbeing at the forefront of decision making.”

Drug checking services have operated successfully across Europe for four decades and have been piloted in UK cities and events by The Loop since 2016. Drug checking provides a vital opportunity for people to access accurate, timely, and relevant information to make more informed decisions about drugs.

Service users surrender substances of concern for laboratory analysis by chemists and the results are shared with them as part of a personalised health consultation with a health professional.

No drugs are returned to service users, only information regarding the substance and professional healthcare advice.

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