Toolkit to fight life-threatening opioids o

Leicester researchers are working with NHS partners in the east of England to pave the way for the NHS target to halve the amount of opioids prescribed for non-cancer pain by 2024 .

Opioids, such as morphine and fentanyl, can be effective for the short-term management of severe pain. However, they are highly addictive, making it difficult to quit, but long-term use is ineffective and negatively affects quality of life.

Debi Bhattacharya, professor of behavioral medicine at the University of Leicester, led an NIHR-funded study alongside colleagues at the University of East Anglia to develop the Opioid Toolkit which provides the six things people Health care organizations should do to enable care teams to follow guidelines to safely reduce the prescription of opioids for non-cancer pain.

Their findings are published today (Friday) in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Professor Bhattacharya said:

“NHS teams from all sectors need to work together if they are to successfully help patients navigate the challenge of reducing opioid use.

“While it is the primary care team that prescribes long-term opioids, hospitals have a responsibility to manage people’s expectations when prescribed opioids for non-cancer pain.

“The whole of the NHS must balance the amount of work expected of practice staff to tackle opioid over-prescription, with the amount of psychological and physical help available to support patients with complex needs.”

In April 2022, the NHS launched its commission for organizations to work together to tackle opioids versus prescription; the Opioid Toolkit provides theory and an evidence-based approach to implementing this NHS commission.

Most parts of England already have some of the six components of the Opioid Toolkit in place, but none have them all. Each region must determine which of the six components they lack, then work with senior NHS staff and patients in their region to determine how best to introduce the missing components.

Professor Bhattacharya and his team are working with the Eastern Academic Health Science Network and the Patient Safety Collaborative to roll out the Opioid Toolkit in the East of England. Sophie Castle-Clarke, from the Eastern Academic Health Science Network, added:

“We are delighted to partner with NIHR ARC East of England and Norfolk and Waveney ICS to support the implementation of a pilot project to evaluate this toolkit in Norfolk and Waveney. We hope it provides important information on how to support the safe reduction of opioid use.

Dr Andrew Douglass, who leads the initiative to tackle opioid use for non-cancer pain in the Norfolk and Waveney area, added:

“Having the research evidence from the Opioid Toolkit helped us bring together senior colleagues from across the region, including local hospitals, the Mental Health Trust and our medical practices. This is an exciting opportunity to lead the improvement of patient safety in opioid prescribing.

“A review of trial and real-world data applying elements of a realistic approach to identifying behavioral mechanisms that help practitioners decrease opioids” is published in British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology.

This study was supported by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration (ARC) East of England.

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