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Prison service to better protect nurses from exposure to ‘killer drug’ spice

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Packets of spice Sold as a synthetic version of cannabis, spice is a fiercely addictive drug popular amongst prisoners and the homeless

The prison service is to update its guidance to nurses on how to deal with prisoners who have taken the psychoactive drug ‘spice’.

The review comes after a meeting between the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), about nurses and health care assistants who suffered effects brought on by the drug after entering prison cells before the smoke had cleared.

‘This meeting is the first step on the road to improving conditions for dedicated nurses and health care assistants who are putting their safety on the line in the course of their duties,’ said Ann Norman, RCN professional lead for criminal justice.

The improved guidance will address how staff should respond in emergencies, particularly after hours, as well as improved guidelines for staff on how to report an incident. ‘We will be working closely with HMPPS to ensure the safety of prison staff is properly accounted for,’ said Ms No

As reported by Independent Nurse last month, breathing in the second-hand smoke from spice – a highly addictive synthetic cannabis – left some nurses unable to administer medicine or drive home after shifts. One nurse even became unconscious after inhaling the fumes and was taken by ambulance to hospital.

‘The dangers posed by spice, both to prison health care staff and the patients they care for, cannot be overstated – these drugs kill,’ said Ms Norman.

The dangers of the drug are amplified as some spice manufacturers spray the leaves with other noxious materials to mask traceable chemicals in the drug.

‘Recently there was a batch of spice with traces of cockroach killer in it, so we really have no idea what harmful chemicals we’re inhaling as well as spice,’ one nurse, who works in a prison, told the RCN.

The nurse also told of the difficulty in having to deal with patients who have taken spice, as well as worrying about their own health.

‘At the time your overwhelming concern is for the patient. What would happen if someone died because I refused to go in?’ the nurse said.

‘It’s a horrible situation to be in.’

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