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Workington GPs step up campaign to reduce benzo prescribing

Homepage » News » Workington GPs step up campaign to reduce benzo prescribing

Workington GPs step up campaign to reduce benzo prescribing

Posted on Thursday 29th May 2014


Family doctors in Workington are working together to help people reduce the number of unnecessary drugs they may be taking and improve their quality of life.

The GP practices, with the support of the main commissioner of health services in Cumbria, NHS Cumbria Clinical Commissioning group (CCG) are offering a withdrawal service for those who are inappropriately taking prescription tranquillisers, such as diazepam, temazepam, zopiclone, zolpidem and cholordiazepoxide - known as benzodiazepines (benzos) and Z-drugs.

The medical practices in Workington are actively reviewing and reducing benzodiazepine prescribing in their patients from June 1, as part of the wider campaign being run across Allerdale, Copeland, Carlisle and parts of Eden.

The benefits for the majority of patients taking benzos and Z-drugs are only short term, and the drugs are actually only licensed for two weeks of use. The benefits rapidly reduce and side effects and dependency can affect the quality of patients’ lives.

The scheme involves a new prescribing strategy and education programme for patients and GPs. It looks at recommended dose reductions from each of the drugs and also invites patients to discuss withdrawal in an environment that doesn't treat them as though they 'have a drug problem'. These drugs are often taken without any realisation of the potential harm they can do and were prescribed in good faith, at a time when little else was available.

Benzodiazepines and z-drugs are cheap, so this is not a cost cutting exercise. Doctors are investing in support to help people stop taking them inappropriately, gain a better quality of life and identify and treat the real underlying problem.

There will be notices displayed in the surgeries explaining that benzodiazepines are not prescribed and if any new patients register who have previously been prescribed a benzodiazepine this will not be continued and the patient will be started on a reduction regime.

Patients will be screened to ensure that they are appropriate for reduction. No-one who is epileptic or palliative will be involved. 

A poster campaign was launched by NHS Cumbria CCG in March this year to encourage patients who are taking these medicines to speak to their GP practice . Patients will be advised if they need to continue taking the drug, and if not provided with the support to reduce and eventually stop taking them.

A pilot scheme run by GPs in Aspatria highlighted the benefits to patients, their families and friends of managed withdrawal from these highly addictive drugs.

NHS Cumbria CCG Lead GP for Allerdale, Dr Niall McGreevy said: “The aim of providing a withdrawal service like this is to give people the support they need to come off benzodiazepines and z-drugs and make a positive improvement to their quality of life.

"If people have been using these drugs for some time it may not always be easy, however the programme provides support through a controlled and managed withdrawal.

“Each individual reacts differently to the withdrawal and we are able to tailor the support each patient needs. It has to be managed on an individual basis. To stop taking drugs like these suddenly is not advisable, which is why we are inviting patients to come in and have a chat about how we can help them.

“It is never too late to come off them and there are significant health benefits to reducing the amount you take.”

For more information ask your GP practice.

Posted on Thursday 29th May 2014


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