NHS Fife is to co-ordinate a new £5 million UK-wide project aimed to reduce fatal overdoses and drug-related harms.

The Health Board has been chosen to manage the UK wide Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge, which will see 12 projects from across the UK share £5 million funding to take forward potentially ground-breaking new approaches to help reduce fatal drug overdoses. NHS Fife was selected by the Chief Scientist’s Office and UK Office of Life Science following a competitive selection process involving a number of other Scottish Health Boards.

The challenge, which is also being funded by Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office and UK Government’s Office for Life Sciences, aims to develop innovative technologies that help to reduce drug-related harms and save lives.

The funded projects will operate across all 4 devolved nations of the UK and range from developing artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to detect overdoses, to emergency systems using drone technology to deliver antidotes, and wearable technologies such as smart watches or breathing monitors to detect overdoses and alert healthcare professionals, family or members of the community to the need to intervene.

The challenge also supports both the UK Government’s drugs strategy, From harm to hope: a 10-year drugs plan to cut crime and save lives, and the Scottish Government’s National Mission on Drugs.

Eleven projects have been awarded up to £100,000 each to launch 4-month feasibility studies to develop prototypes, with one additional project securing up to £500,000 for a year-long demonstration study to collect real-world evidence with residents of homeless accommodation. The projects begin this month.

The clinical lead for the Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge is Professor Alex Baldacchino, a recently retired NHS Fife Consultant in Addictions Psychiatry and the Board’s former Director of Research and Development.  Professor Baldacchino, who is now a Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Addiction with the University of St Andrews, said of the initiative:

“The new Reducing Drug Deaths Innovation Challenge presents us with a unique opportunity to bring together the collective expertise of teams from both north and south of the border to better tackle drug-related harms. It is also a unique opportunity when health and social care can work together with universities and industry on making a difference.

“It is vitally important that we develop new and innovative ways to help us reduce the numbers of drug-related deaths across the UK. This initiative will enable us to utilise the range of emerging technologies available to us to help reduce the numbers of those who lose their lives as a result of substance misuse.”

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