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Norfolk GP practice and CCG win awards for opioid painkiller campaigns

NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and one of their local GP practices, East Norfolk Medical Practice, have been successful in winning awards for their work to reduce the use of strong opioid painkillers for patients with long-term pain.

The CCG launched its #OpioidAware campaign in December 2018. The campaign came after figures showed more than 2,000 deaths in England and Wales during 2016 involved an opioid. At the same time, use of the drugs was increasing, with GPs in England prescribing 23.8m opioid-based painkillers in 2017 – 10 million more than in 2007.

Entered into the “Addressing problematic polypharmacy’ category of the 2019 PrescQIPP Awards, an industry event which sets the benchmark for medicines management in the UK., they were recognised for having successfully taken the Great Yarmouth and Waveney area from being the highest percentage of high-dose opioids in the UK in April 2017 to the 62nd ranked prescriber in August 2019.

Michael Dennis, head of medicines optimisation at Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG, said:

“Specialists used to believe that opioids were useful in the treatment of long-term pain but it is now known that this is not the case. If patients are on a high dose opioid and are still in pain then it is not of benefit and the side effects, which include reduced quality of life and increased risk of early death, outweigh any potential benefits.

 “We are delighted to receive this award in recognition for reducing the reliance of patients on high-dose opioids in our area.  High-dose opioids can cause a range of different side effects, such as lethargy, memory problems, reduced sex drive and even premature death, they are also highly addictive, which means that people can become reliant on them very quickly.”

“Reducing the amount of high-dose opioids we prescribe will have a positive impact on people’s lives. I would like to pay tribute to our dedicated and passionate team of staff who have helped us to raise awareness of these issues and who have supported the CCG and its patients in making these reductions.

“We would advise anyone who is taking these strong painkillers to make an appointment with their GP or practice pharmacist to discuss reducing their dose safely. It is important to do this slowly and under medical supervision, as stopping opioids suddenly is dangerous.

East Norfolk Medical Practice (ENMP) which covers four surgeries in the Great Yarmouth area was shortlisted in the ‘Patient safety’ category of the same awards.  

Their project aims to reduce inappropriate combinations of prescribed opioids, gabapentinoids (pregabalin and gabapentin), which are used to treat nerve pain, and benzodiazepines (diazepam, temazepam and lorazepam), which are used to treat anxiety and insomnia.

This involved the creation of special clinics for patients on these combinations of medicines led by a GP and a patient welfare manager who looks at people holistically including their wider social needs such as housing, employment, and benefits. These patients are also followed up by the patient welfare manager to ensure they attend their appointments on a monthly basis to help support them with their medication reduction.

Dr Ailsa Sheldon, a GP Partner at ENMP said: “We are delighted to have won this award. The aim of these special clinics is to reduce the prescribing of high-dose opioids and to improve our patients’ quality of life. This approach is unique as far as we know as it encompasses holistic care by tackling both medical and social needs leading to better outcomes for our patients.”




Issued by Ian Wakefield  on behalf of the Norfolk and Waveney CCGs.

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