Industry and medical bodies representing nurses and doctors have called on the NSW government to urgently implement pill and drug-checking measures during the summer festival season or risk putting young lives at risk.

A joint letter between The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), NSW Nurses and Midwives Association, Health Services Union, Royal Australasian College of Physicians and Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation will be presented to Sydney MP and testing advocate Alex Greenwich.

The letter advocates for a drug-checking trial prior to the drug summit next year and says “delaying drug checking will put lives at risk”.

“In drug-checking services, health professionals provide expert harm reduction advice and help people manage the risks of taking drugs,” it said.

“This summer is forecast to be a hot one, and we know that high temperatures combined with unexpectedly high doses of MDMA is a dangerous combination that can be fatal.

“Without drug checking, there’s no way to identify high-risk drug samples before people consume them.”

RACGP Specific Interests Addiction Medicine chair Hester Wilson said drug checking allowed people to make “informed decisions”.

To date, a fixed-site drug-checking facility has been implemented in the ACT following a successful trial, with the Queensland government set to launch a similar service later this year.

“It’s about offering people who are going to use substances options because we know they will do it whether substance checking is available or not,” she said.

“But when the option is available, it allows people to make informed decisions, and they will often tell their mates who change how they use and are safer as a result.

“It also allows conversations about harm and links to treatment for those who need and want it.”

NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association general secretary Shaye Candish said harm minimisation was the best approach for keeping people safe.

“As health professionals, we understand the importance of listening to evidence,” she 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.”

Health Services Union secretary Gerard Hayes also shared his support for a trial.

“Our members spend every working day doing all we can to keep people alive,” he said.

“Evidence and compassion are the principles that guide our work and that is why we support a trial of drug checking and have previously supported an expansion of the Kings Cross injecting rooms.

“The data collected from a trial this summer can assist discussions at the drug summit that the NSW government has committed to hold.”

Appearing at budget estimates on Wednesday, NSW Premier Chris Minns said the government was “tracking” to hold a drug summit in 2024, however he couldn’t to offer any more details.

However, he said there wasn’t enough evidence that a testing regime would save more lives at festivals.

Mr Minns also rejected plans to hold a drug-checking trial prior to the summit.

“I had a close look at (drug checking), as well as the Minister for Health, and my concern is that mobile testing facilities at music festivals will determine whether there’s an alien substance in drugs … but it won’t measure potency,” he said.

“Examining the tragic deaths associated with drug use at music festivals, potency, generally speaking, is the reason people die, not a toxic substance or an alien substance in their drugs.”

NSW Health Minister Ryan Park will appear at budget estimates on Thursday.

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By Rahul

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