RESIDENTS experiencing issues with drugs can now be better supported thanks to a new approach between North Somerset Council, South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) and local charity WithYou.

When an ambulance or rapid response crew attend a patient who has experienced a non-fatal overdose, clinicians will send a referral to WithYou, who will contact the individual offering support.

Minors will be referred to the correct children and young person's service.

In the future, it is possible that the scheme could be expanded to include patients where an ambulance has not attended.

Cllr Jenna Ho Marris, North Somerset Council’s executive member for public health, said: “This new pathway means more people will benefit from early intervention and harm reduction advice, getting the help they need.

"Three people have been helped to access support since it was introduced last month, which is about how many we’d expect at this early stage. Having this system in place means many more people will be helped in the future.

“This linking between our organisations to help more people get the support they need is a great innovation and I’m proud of the work we’re doing to build connections with our partners.

“We know drug misuse and dependency are often connected to a range of harms including poor physical and mental health, unemployment, homelessness, and criminal activity and death.

"This in turn has to do with wider determinants of health such as lack of decent jobs, lack of decent housing, and social circumstances.

"Reducing harms related to alcohol and substance drug use, including tackling the wider determinants of health inequalities,  are key objectives in the North Somerset Health and Wellbeing strategy.”

Adrian South, deputy director of Clinical Care at the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We are really pleased to be working in partnership with North Somerset Council and WithYou, to further support patients who are experiencing drug and alcohol related concerns. 

“Our clinicians are now able to electronically refer patients they attend in North Somerset, who are experiencing issues with drugs and alcohol to With You for further support.”

Gill Flanagan, head of Service Delivery at WithYou, concluded: “We know that getting people the right support at the right time will greatly improve their outcomes, and so being able to partner with North Somerset Council and SWASFT on this important initiative will enable us to better support local people.”