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CCG shortlisted for awards

Norfolk GP practice and CCG shortlisted for awards for opioid painkiller campaigns

Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and one of their local GP practices have been shortlisted for awards for their work to reduce the use of strong opioid painkillers for patients with long-term pain.

The CCG launched its #OpioidAware campaign last December with the aim of raising awareness of the impact of opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine, fentanyl, codeine and other high dose opiates.

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.

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.

Patients who reduce and stop these drugs report feeling much better. Whilst their level of pain is not changed their mood and energy levels are improved along with their overall wellbeing. Patients on these medicines are being supported to reduce their dose and many have completely stopped these medicines.

The CCG’s #OpioidAware campaign has now received national recognition having been shortlisted in the PrescQIPP Annual Awards 2019.

Michael Dennis, head of medicines optimisation at Great Yarmouth and Waveney CCG, said: “We are delighted that this campaign has been shortlisted for these national awards.

“The long-term use of opioid drugs for chronic pain can cause a range of different side effects, such as lethargy, memory problems, reduced sex drive and even premature death.

“Opioids are also highly addictive, which means that people can become reliant on them very quickly. As a result, the receptors in the brain adjust so that you have to take higher doses of the drugs to have the same effect. Ironically, this can leave the patient in even more pain and greater discomfort than they would be if they stopped taking the medication altogether.

“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.

“You are likely to find that stopping the medication actually helps your condition and that you are in less pain without the opioids and may also feel more alert. In addition, your GP or pain specialist can also suggest other things which could help, such as mindfulness, talking therapies, meditation and exercises such as Thai Chi and yoga.”

One of the CCG’s GP practices, East Norfolk Medical Practice, a partnership of Newtown Surgery, Caister Health Centre, The Lighthouse and the Nelson Medical Centre has also been shortlisted for the same PrescQIPP awards for their project which 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.

The project has 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 from East Norfolk Medical Practice said:Since these dedicated clinics have been in operation we have seen significant reductions in the prescribing of these medicines. 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.”

The award winners will be announced on November 5.



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