Latest news

Press releases and statements about HIV and related topics

NAT publish report on drug-related deaths which shows local authorities are struggling with public health cuts

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

An investigation into whether local government is tackling all-time high rates of drug-related deaths has been published by NAT (National AIDS Trust) today.

Drug-related deaths are at the highest since records began in 1993 and have been increasing for six years.[i] Last year there were 3,756 drug-related deaths in England and Wales, 53% of which related to opiate use.[ii] A third of overdose deaths in Europe happen in the UK.[iii]

NAT wrote to the 40 local authorities in England with the worst rates of deaths. The responses revealed that no local authorities had formally raised the issue of rising drug-related deaths in a full council meeting. Further, although many local authorities showed activity to reduce drug-related deaths, serious barriers to progress were reported.

In particular, central Government decisions are contributing to the crisis in drug-related deaths and must be reversed. Councils said that cuts to the public health budget are severely limiting what they could do in response to their high rates of death.

A number of councils are also interested in implementing drug consumption rooms as a way of reducing death and other harms. The refusal of the Home Office to allow Drug Consumption Rooms ignores all the evidence of their safety and effectiveness. People are dying as a result.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust), said: “The high rate of drug-related deaths in England constitutes a public health and humanitarian crisis which must be addressed urgently.”

“In light of the clear evidence that drug consumptions rooms reduce drug-related deaths without encouraging wider drug use, we call on the Government to allow local areas to decide for themselves whether a safe consumption room could work for them.”

“We could be doing so much better at providing naloxone, a medication that can prevent death from opioid overdose (Blackpool report 16 lives saved using naloxone since April 2017). Many more lives could be saved with a national programme to provide naloxone to those at risk of overdose and people close to them.”

“We also call on the Government to reverse public health cuts so these services can be funded adequately – at this point it is a matter of life and death.”

For more details or further comment, contact senior press officer Charlie Alderwick: 020 7814 6727

[i] Office for National Statistics, ‘Deaths related to drug poisoning in England and Wales: 2017 registrations’, 6th August 2018. Available here:

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA), ‘European Drug Report, 2017’, 2017. Available here:

About NAT

NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.

Shaping attitudes. Challenging injustice. Changing lives.

NAT Topic