Pubdate: 29 Mar 1998 Source: Scotland on Sunday Author: Sue Leonard, Health Correspondent Contact: ADDICTS AT RISK FOR LACK OF HOME VISITS TO CHANGE NEEDLES, WARNS FORUM An expansion of home-visiting needle exchange services for addicts living in rural areas is urgently needed, according to the Scottish Drugs Forum. The forum accused the government of failing to implement advice from ministers three years ago to improve services for people living in Scotland's remote towns and villages. Some addicts are being forced to share needles and others have to travel more than 20 miles twice a week to get clean equipment and avoid the risk of developing HIV or hepatitis C. In 1994 the ministerial drug task force recommended that pilot outreach exchange schemes be set up with a view to considering whether the practice might be adopted more widely. So far no pilot projects have been established and the decision for providing the servie has been left to health boards already hard up for cash. David Liddell, of the SDF, said only a handful of home visiting needle exchanges existed. "We are three years down the line and we should be moving in terms of recommendations from the ministerial task force report," he said. "Certainly we have concerns in terms of the individuals and their health which is being put at risk potentially by the lack of available needles and syringes." The SDF will tomorrow launch its rural drugs policy in which it calls on the Scottish Office to redress the lack of help, advice and information available to those who use drugs in populations of less than 10,000 people. Issues about confidentiality mean that some drug users in small towns are reluctant to go to their GP for help because they may be a family friend. Several thousand hard drug users are failing to get the help that they need, according to the group. The Scottish Office said it "held its hands up" to the fact that no pilot schemes had been set up but said guidance had gone out to health boards who could set the schemes up if they were willing and financially able.