Allison Ford

Dr Allison Ford is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social Marketing and Health. Specialising in qualitative methods, Allison’s research focuses on public health interventions and policy, particularly among vulnerable groups, for tobacco prevention, cessation and harm reduction, alcohol, food and substance use. She currently leads a qualitative work package exploring ambulance clinicians’ experiences of drug-related overdose call-outs in Scotland, the Scottish arm and process evaluation of the SCeTCH study (Smoking Cessation Trial in Centres for the Homeless, and a study exploring young people’s responses to e-cigarettes and emerging nicotine products and their marketing.

Ambulance clinicians’ experiences of drug overdose call outs and the barriers and facilitators to optimal clinical care: a qualitative interview study

Background: This qualitative study examined ambulance clinicians’ experiences of illicit drug overdose call-outs, including barriers and facilitators to optimal clinical care, and clinicians’ views on their role and responsibilities in preventing drug-related deaths.

Methods: Telephone interviews were conducted with 20 paramedics and ambulance technicians across Scotland between January and June 2021. Analysis followed a thematic approach aided by NVivo12.

Results: While some interviewees described these call-outs as straightforward, others reported feelings of vulnerability, frustration, or helplessness with limited knowledge/availability of specific pathways for overdose patients. Call-outs could be challenging due to: patient behaviour including where patients refused conveyance to hospital or loading doses of naloxone; uncertainty around how best to assess patient capacity; or the involvement of multiple substances. Communication, rapport building, and an understanding of the wider issues leading to addiction, were seen as fundamental to effectively responding to overdose patients and to reducing stigmatisation. Most interviewees said they would like to have a more proactive role in preventing future call outs.

Conclusion: Ambulance clinicians are receptive to providing a more proactive response to overdose-patents. There may be potential for the Scottish Ambulance Service to better support prevention of drug-related deaths through enhanced information-sharing and referral to other agencies.