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NHS toolkit launched to monitor over-prescribing in patients with learning disabilities

2 June 2016

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NHS England has launched new resources for prescribing professionals to help them review prescriptions for patients with learning disabilities and autism.

The report, Stopping over-medication of people with learning disabilities, estimates that “on an average day in England, between 30,000 and 35,000 adults with a learning disability are being prescribed an antipsychotic, an antidepressant or both without appropriate clinical indications (psychosis or affective/anxiety disorder)”.

The long-term effects of which includes significant weight gain, organ failure and death.

The report adds that multiple psychotropic drug use often starts at a specialist level, which is then passed onto primary care for long-term management.

However, research published last year found that these prescriptions are often repeated without adequate review.

The resources have been launched as part of a joint initiative between NHS England, Alistair Burt MP, minister of state for community and social care, five professional bodies and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF).

The five professional bodies include the Royal Colleges of Nursing, Psychiatrists and GPs, as well as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the British Psychological Society.

Dr Matt Hoghton, medical director for the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) Clinical Innovation and Research Centre, said: “Working collaboratively between healthcare professionals and carers is really important in tackling the appropriate use of psychotropic drugs in our patients with learning disabilities.”

He added: “Whilst GPs rarely initiate these medications, they have a key role to play in reviewing and ensuring our patients with learning disabilities are only taking drugs if they need to, and that their records indicate why they are taking them, so this guidance is welcome.”

The advice in the report includes a flowchart to help healthcare workers review, reduce or stop the prescription of psychotropic drugs in people with a learning disability.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s national medical director, said: “Reducing use of powerful drugs whenever we can is a good thing. We have managed this successfully in dementia; it’s now time to bring similar benefits to patients who have a learning disability.”