Give addicts free heroin on NHS says top nurse

Drug addicts should be given free heroin on the NHS to stop them from turning to crime, a nursing chief has claimed.

Surgeries should also set aside ‘shoot-up’ galleries, which are rooms laid out with needles so addicts can inject in private, said the head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Peter Carter.

Mr Carter, speaking at the annual RCN congress, claimed that making heroin available would reduce crime as addicts would not need to steal to fund their habit.


A BBC report said other nurses at the RCN annual conference in Bournemouth had mixed views.

Gail Brooks, from the RCN’s UK safety representatives committee, opposed the idea, saying: “Where would this stop?

“Cannabis, cocaine, crack cocaine…other substances?”


Mr Carter claimed that free heroin services could be available on the NHS “within a few years”.

The NHS is currently piloting a scheme to give addicts diamorphine, the medical term for heroin, in clinics in Brighton, Darlington and London.

Results of the trial will be published later this year.


Mr Carter said: “I do believe in heroin prescribing. The fact is heroin is very addictive.

“It might take a few years but I think people will understand.

“If you are going to get people off heroin then in the initial stages we have to have proper heroin prescribing services.”


But critics question spending public money on such an approach.

Matthew Elliott, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “It would be madness for the NHS to give out free heroin given that it currently struggles to provide life-saving and life-prolonging drugs for cancer patients.

“There is no reason why taxpayers should fund someone’s recreational drug habit.

Public funding

“This would take us into the absurd situation of taxpayers funding police campaigns against heroin and the NHS paying for people to take more of it.”

David Green, director of the Civitas think-tank, said: “I’m completely against this idea. The solution is to get people off the addiction, to get them off heroin completely.

“Money should be spent on therapy approaches, rather than keeping users on drugs. One idea being piloted at the moment is using so-called ‘opioid antagonists’ – drugs which make people sick if they take heroin.

“There is a pilot currently under way in North Yorkshire and it takes five days or so for users to get off heroin.”

Nick Clegg

The Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg faced criticism over the weekend when it emerged he had backed legalising drugs when he was a member of the European Parliament.

The Sunday Telegraph disclosed Mr Clegg as one of 109 MEPs who backed a proposal in 2002 for “decriminalising the use of certain substances” and “partially decriminalising the sale of cannabis”.

Lib Dems also support giving Heroin to addicts as a way to cut crime.

The Party also supports moving away from the general prohibition of drugs and backs downgrading Ecstasy to Class B as well as voting to keep Cannabis at the weaker Class C.


Last year a leading drugs expert said prescribing heroin to addicts doesn’t help get them off drugs and risks making doctors like dealers.

Professor Neil McKeganey of the Centre for Drug Misuse Research at Glasgow University said the method “is far removed from how we normally consider treatment – which is resolution”.

He maintained that prescribing people with addictive drugs would not help them become drug free.