POLICE representatives have made health and safety objections over moves to have officers sent on patrol with nasal sprays to treat victims of drug overdose.

The trial comes after it emerged paramedics are to train families of heroin users how to use Naloxone kits.

It is now estimated around 700 officers will be trained to potentially participate in the test of changes.

Last year, the number of drug-related deaths in Scotland soared to 1,187.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie headed a delivery steering group with a range of partners, including the Scottish Drugs Death Task Force, police staff associations and the NHS in connection with the move.

They have been developing proposals for officers to carry Naloxone while on patrol.

The move was to require the approval of the force executive before being trialled by a "small number" of officers on a voluntary basis.

Now it has been confirmed that a pilot for the carriage, and use, of intra-nasal spray Naloxone by Police Scotland officers has been approved.

Following discussion at the Strategic Leadership Board, the test of change projects will be delivered in three identified areas in 2021, one in each of the East, North and West local policing areas.

The Scottish Police Federation  which represents 98% of all police officers in Scotland was concerned by the move.

Federation chairman David Hamilton said: "“The SPF is completely opposed to the carriage or administering of naloxone by police officers.

“The number of drugs deaths in Scotland is a health calamity that needs urgent addressing but sticky-plaster initiatives like these divert resources from tackling the underlying problem.

“As the detail of this pilot has unfolded it is increasingly clear that this is a public relations exercise and has nothing to do with saving lives. Nobody in the UK has died as a consequence of a Police Officer not carrying Naloxone, people have however died as a consequence of being given Naloxone.

HeraldScotland:

“The stretching of the role of a police officer is a slippery slope and many could now fairly ask why we don’t carry ladders and hoses or even adrenalin, where more impactive lifesaving interventions could be made.

“Finally, to introduce this pilot in areas where Tier 3 COVID restrictions are needed to combat high community infection shows a wanton disregard for the health and safety of our police officers."

The Naloxone test of change will run for a six-month period in Falkirk, Dundee City and Glasgow East.

Police Scotland said that the carriage of Naloxone within the "test-bed" areas will be voluntary.

However, all frontline officers of the rank of police constable, sergeant and inspector within these local areas will be required to undertake a two-hour training and education session.

The country's drug death rate is nearly three times that of the UK as a whole, and is higher than that reported for any other EU country.

Assistant Chief Constable Gary Ritchie, head of drug strategy for Police Scotland, said: “There has been a great deal of careful consideration given as to whether our officers should carry Naloxone as an additional piece of equipment and consultation has taken place with a range of partners through the Naloxone Delivery Steering Group.

“In doing so, it is hoped the test-bed areas will show the value of our officers carrying this treatment as an extension to the existing extensive first aid training already provided by the organisation. We are committed to being proactive in our approach to tackling problem drug use in our communities through harm reduction, as well as dispelling myths while upholding our ethos of keeping people safe in our local areas.

“This is one of the most significant test of change projects in modern policing in Scotland, and could have a significant impact on the communities we serve.

“A full evidence-based evaluation of the test of change will be produced to inform any future decision whether Naloxone is rolled out to all officers.”

Naloxone, administered as a nasal spray, is a medication that can reverse the effects of a drug-related overdose.

The drug works by temporarily reversing the effects of opioid overdoses.

The ambulance initiative was part of a pilot scheme funded by the Scottish government taskforce set up last year to tackle the rising number of drug deaths.

Naloxone kits are already widely available in communities, with about 46,000 supplied between 2011 and 2018.

Last year paramedics in Scotland used more than 5,000 doses of Naloxone, the Scottish Ambulance Service said.

In 2010, Scotland became the first country in the world to introduce a national Naloxone programme.