WORK to slow the worrying trend of drug deaths in Barrow is winning nationwide recognition, a meeting has heard.

The death rate has fallen from 12 people dying over five months, to eight over 16 months since agencies became involved, councillors were told.

Health officials bosses said they were not complacent as there were 28 near misses or overdoses during that time.

The work has caught the attention of the College of Policing, which plans to share with other forces what Barrow has achieved.

Lancashire and Merseyside Police forces have also shown interest in the work in Barrow by various public agencies and third sector partners.

In addition, the University of Central Lancashire in Preston plans to study the work of the Barrow Drugs Death Group.

Cllr Kevin Hamilton, the chair of Barrow Local Committee, said the recognition was a testament to the good work being done.

Cllr Hamilton said: “To think we have the Policing College coming here to study what is going on in Barrow, is absolutely brilliant.”

The local committee – a cross-party panel of county councillors representing Barrow, Walney and Dalton – was addressed by Lesley Graham, the public health locality manager for Barrow, who works for Cumbria County Council.

Mrs Graham commented: “It is quite nice that in Barrow we are being recognised for the work we are doing. The Barrow Drug Deaths Group has been in existence for 16 months now. In that time we have seen a really big reduction in drug deaths and 28 near misses.

“Arguably those 28 near misses would have resulted in deaths, had we not changed a lot of the systems that are going on in the community and the health system.”

Mrs Graham said training had taken place with local GPs and practice nurses over prescribing, more information was being shared with organisations to keep a grip on the issue and work had taken place with the likes of the North West Ambulance Service and The Well, the Barrow-based not-for-profit community interest company, which helps people recover from addictions.

An education programme with pupils in Year Six has also been under way to educate them about “risk-taking behaviour”.

Mrs Graham said: “We are making inroads to the drug deaths. A lot of people have voiced concerns that we are targeting 10 and 11-year-olds and have asked if this is too young? My answer to that is no, they are not.

“To me, there’s nothing like lived experience. We know that kids are indulging in risk-taking behaviour younger and younger now.”