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Healthcare professionals and partners

Preventing drug related deaths and blood-borne viruses

Alerts and warning systems

Local early warning and alerts
Reports regularly circulate in the media, among people who use drugs and between drug treatment services about batches of contaminated or adulterated drugs, very pure or strong drugs, and new or imitation drugs that may cause serious harm or death. Some of these reports are accurate; others are inaccurate. Knowing how to distinguish between them and respond proportionately can present a real challenge to partnerships, organisations and professionals aiming to reduce the risk of drug related harm and death. Inaccurate or ambiguous reports present a serious risk in themselves and repeated unconfirmed warnings can dilute the impact of future, serious messages on the target audience.

Effective local partnership working in an agreed system of process and paperwork can enable partnerships and treatment services to verify and assess intelligence received about drug dangers. It can facilitate the rapid flow of consistent and accurate information when a genuine and serious danger presents, and support local partnerships' work in preventing future drug-related harm and death.

Effective local drugs early warning and alerts systems use standardised forms to record and process intelligence and to distribute information, including confirmed alerts.

Two templates are provided here, which partnerships may find useful:

  • Drugs early warning form (view) – this is completed when intelligence is received or an incident reported that merits investigation as it may result in a drug alert.
  • Drug alert form (view) – this is completed and circulated to warn others in the system if the investigation confirms the intelligence submitted in the early warning and the potential severity of the problem.

To support the use of the forms we have also provided some supplementary notes (view).

National advice and alerts
Usually, reports will be confined to a local area, or the immediate surrounding areas. Occasionally, safety warnings and public health advice will need to be communicated to service users across England. PHE collaborates with the Department of Health to release national alerts, warnings or advice, when information needs to be provided to treatment providers and service users across England. Any new national alerts or advice will be posted in this section of this website.

Alerts, Advice and National Warning Systems

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