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'First' pharmacy-based needle exchange vending machine in UK

Riverside Pharmacy's Chris Mulimba and Addaction's Dimple Oza with the vending machine
Riverside Pharmacy's Chris Mulimba and Addaction's Dimple Oza with the vending machine

A pharmacy in Lincolnshire has become the first in the UK to offer a needle exchange service using a vending machine, according to a charity.

Drug, alcohol and mental health charity Addaction approached Riverside Pharmacy in Sleaford about installing the vending machine, the organisation said in a statement last week.

The charity helped superintendent pharmacist Chris Mulimba acquire the custom-fit machine from injection equipment suppliers Orion Medical Supplies, it said.

The service operates from the pharmacy's consultation room, where patients can place any used needles in a bin before operating the vending machine with a plastic token given out by the pharmacy staff.

Mr Mulimba told C+D last week that the semi-automated machine “halves the time” taken by staff to complete a needle exchange, bringing it down to five minutes.

“A traditional method takes 10 minutes – you have to assemble the indvidual [pack],” Mr Mulimba explained. “The [vending machine] has everything pre-packed; the only time it takes is talking to the client about harm reduction.”

“My pharmacy has a small, very busy counter. Introducing a full-scale needle exchange service wasn’t going to be feasible, because staff would be put under a lot of pressure,” Mr Mulimba added.

The method offers better face-to-face interaction than available during over-the-counter dispensing, as staff and patients have a chance to speak privately in the consultation room, Mr Mulimba said.

Riverside's staff were “not keen” on offering the service initially, but their attitudes changed after they had completed a half-day's online training, he said.

The machine was funded by the charity, which also provided training for staff in conjunction with Orion. The pharmacy receives £1.25 from Addaction* for every two packs dispensed.

Ten patients have already used the service since the pharmacy launched it on January 2, Mr Mulimba told C+D.

“They have come back with used needles to dispose of, which is the main thing,” he said.

Sleaford had not had a full needle exchange service since September last year, according to Addaction.

The charity's senior pharmacist Dimple Oza said the machine “takes up no space behind the counter and saves costs on building modifications, which may have been necessary in a traditional needle exchange setting”.

*This article was updated at 4.30pm, January 23, to clarify how the needle exchange service is funded

Would you consider installing a needle exchange dispensing machine?

Boom Shakalaka, Locum pharmacist

*This comment has been deleted for breaching C+D's community principles*

Neeraj Salwan, Superintendent Pharmacist

Guys sunny Jim is probably a C&D plant they do that from time to time, makes for a good read and debate though!

Chemical Mistry, Information Technology


Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

The world doesn’t revolve around contractors. Locums haven’t had a rise in decades yet they don’t moan as much as contractors who feel they need government subsidies because they have taken out large loans. NO NO NO 

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

£1.25 seems a tad steep ...nhs throwing money away like confetti...£0.50 is more than enough during these difficult times .. well done Riverside pharmacy 

Pharma Tron , Community pharmacist

Sunny Jim, because harm reduction is public health, this is where the money comes from. So rest easy in your bed that the NHS isn’t paying for the service. So more pennies to plaster on the side of the Brexit bus. As a side note, the Superintendent fails to realise that as far as I know the Lincolnshire service uses prepacked needle packs. So ten mins, it isn’t. More like ten seconds, unless you have some harm reduction advice etc then it’s a little longer. 

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Well done on the lovely spelling, by the way.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Don't worry, though, I'll not mark you down for changing your nom de guerre to another Arsenal player but yet again manage to spell it wrongly, Mkhitaryan is a tricky one...

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

Benny, sound like a bitter contractor who wants  immunity from cuts ;) 

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Yet another spelling mistake, it's spelled Ben. I'm not a contractor but a salaried employee. I don't want immunity from cuts. So well done, 0 from 3! All I want is a properly funded community pharmacy sector that is allowed to provide free and reliable healthcare and advice where patients need it and when patients need it. There is absolutely no rationale to the cuts proposed and imposed other than to reduce the sector to a supply model which benefits no-one. No account has been taken on specific geography, deprivation, multiculturalism, illness, nothing.

Maybe try giving us your real name, Mr(s) Jim, and let's have a grown up chat.

On second thoughts, by the tone of recent posts, I don't know whether you want a debate or just fancy slinging mud everywhere, baiting people worried not only about their jobs and livelihoods but the patients they try so very hard to care for.

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

A profession will be paid what thepay master thinks they deserve not what Ben thinks the profession deserves. It’s called a market economy 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

Well said Ben, I think Sunny Jim has had some bad dreams about contractors... he is a bitter pharmacist dreaming of being an owner and never had the guts to do it 

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

Not at all. I am a contractor but don’t feel the government owes me a favour . My rental income more than covers any cuts made and best of all, I don’t have a loan to pay as my was a new contract .   WENGER OUT 

DM X, Locum pharmacist

How about Trump sunny Jim? But joking aside I think this article shows the increased automation and "tech" that's being imbued onto pharmacy.

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

A new contract.... 100 hours maybe or one bought from Goldin?? 100 hours selling for less that 50p on turnover on Hutchings and Chrsities... you should buy a few more if your so flush!!!! 

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Then put your money where your mouth is and give us your ODS code so we can all see just how wonderful things are in the Land of Jim! If you can't do that, then calm yourself down and do us all a favour and not give us the pleasure of shouting you and your irrelevant and inaccurate nonsense down #UpTheSpurs

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

Understood, but inticing hate vs contrcators and making us out to be some beggers to the government is not on either.  And thanks for SANCHEZ!!


Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

The rich pharmacy sector should be happy to take a funding cut to help A/E depts struggling through this winters pressures. One soln is to decrease funding on dispensing Which is still too lucrative by at least 15% . 

Wolverine 001 , Pharmacist Director

£160m to A&E wont even scratch the surface.... what you need is a complete overhaul of the NHS - no more free durgs and GP visits.  Went to spain needed to the see the Dr - paid 20 euro for the Doc (30mins) consultation and 15 euro for the medication - NOT FREE and excellent service why cant we have it here??

Sunny Jim, Pharmacy Buyer

*This comment has been deleted and the user issued with a final warning*

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Why don't we open up the market and let everyone have as many needles as they want, Mr(s) Jim/Pieterson/Ozil?

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