Major health unions and representative bodies have joined the push to introduce pill testing in NSW, saying a delay will endanger lives, but Health Minister Ryan Park has confirmed the government has no plans to introduce the measure.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives Association (NSWNMA), Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Health Services Union, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation have co-signed a letter to Premier Chris Minns, urging the government to implement a drug testing pilot immediately.
Shaye Candish, the Illawarra-based general secretary of the NSWNMA, said health professionals knew the importance of listening to evidence.
"Harm minimisation is the best-practice approach, and it recognises people should be supported to reduce harm to themselves and the wider community," Ms Candish said.
"Pill testing is an effective step to prevent overdoses and unnecessary deaths, it can also help people make informed decisions about taking drugs and lead to behavioural changes."
The letter co-signed by the groups says drug checking already operates in 28 countries and is supported by a strong evidence base.
It says there is no way for people to identify high-risk drugs without testing and delaying drug checking will put lives at risk.
"An evaluated pilot program will also provide vital information for further discussion at the NSW Drug Summit next year," the letter said.
Health Minister and Keira MP Ryan Park told a budget estimates hearing on Thursday that he was "not closing the door on reform" but the government did not plan to offer pill testing at this time.
When asked by committee member and Greens MP Cate Faehrmann - who supports pill testing - whether it was better for people to have access to health professionals via pill testing than not at all, Mr Park said he was "very focused on harm reduction measures".
He said there were peer-to-peer services, improved messaging, better access to first aid, water, and medics at festivals.
Mr Park reiterated his comments from early October, saying he did not want to give the impression that pill testing was a "silver bullet" that would stop drug-related deaths.
Pill testing was one measure, he said, and was "not the only thing that should be focused on".
He said the issue of pill testing would no doubt be discussed at next year's planned drug summit.
"We are going to be engaging with the community, with members of parliament in both houses, and more importantly, from my perspective, experts in this area as a part of the drug summit that will hold next year," Mr Park said.
Chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant told the hearing that many deaths and harm associated with overdose were from MDMA, so there was a big push for people to know the signs of toxicity.
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