Acceptability of, and barriers and facilitators to, a pilot physical health service for people who inject drugs: A qualitative study with service users and providers

Niall Anderson*, Joanna Kesten, Rachel Ayres, Matt Hickman, Richard Amlot, Susan F Michie, Fabiana Lorencatto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


People who inject drugs may experience difficulty accessing or maintaining involvement with traditional healthcare services. This is associated with increased health inequalities and bio-psychosocial difficulties. Embedding physical healthcare services within community-based drug services may provide a practical and feasible approach to increase access and delivery of healthcare. This study explored the acceptability of, and barriers and facilitators to, embedding a pilot physical healthcare service within a community-based drug service in the United Kingdom (Bristol, England).

Semi-structured interviews were conducted with service users (people who inject drugs) (n=13), and a focus group was conducted with service providers (n = 11: nine harm reduction workers, two nurses, one service manager). Topic guides included questions to explore barriers and facilitators to using and delivering the service (based on the COM-B Model), and acceptability of the service (using the Theoretical Framework of Acceptability). Transcripts were analysed using a combined deductive framework and inductive thematic analysis approach.

The service was viewed as highly acceptable. Service users and providers were confident they could access and provide the service respectively, and perceived it to be effective. Barriers included competing priorities of service users (e.g. drug use) and the wider service (e.g. equipment), and the potential impact of the service being removed in future was viewed as a barrier to overall healthcare access. Both service users and providers viewed embedding the physical health service within an existing community-based drug service as facilitating accessible and holistic care which reduced stigma and discrimination.

The current study demonstrated embedding a physical health service within an existing community-drug based and alcohol service was acceptable and beneficial. Future studies are required to demonstrate cost-effectiveness and ensure long-term sustainability, and to determine transferability of findings to other settings, organisations and countries.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Drug Policy
Early online date28 Sep 2021
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2021


  • People who inject drugs
  • acceptability
  • barriers and facilitators
  • healthcare
  • drug services
  • implementation


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