Welsh Government have accepted nine out of ten of the recommendations brought forward by Stevie Lewis’s petition.
It is important we distinguish between substance misuse, as the harmful use of substances such as drugs and alcohol; and dependence arising from the therapeutic use of medicines whether they are prescribed or purchased.
This paragraph is so important – to distinguish between misuse and inadvertent dependency.
We commend Welsh Gov for it’s deliberation and thoughtful response to this petition
We have accepted nine of the ten recommendations set out in the report and a Government response to each is annexed to this letter for the Committee’s consideration.
Recommendation 1. Greater recognition should be given to prescription drug dependence at a national level in both policy and strategy, including within the next Substance Misuse Action Plan and the Substance Misuse Treatment Framework. This should include a clearer distinction between substance misuse and prescription drug dependence, and identification of specific actions to help prevent dependence upon prescription medications and support people affected. Response: Accept
Recommendation 2. The Welsh Government should confirm and explain its position on whether SSRI and SNRI antidepressants should be formally recognised as potentially leading to problems of dependence and withdrawal. Response: Accept
Recommendation 3. The Welsh Government should restate and emphasise antidepressants should not be routinely prescribed for mild depression in guidance to healthcare professionals, and should provide assurances that sufficient alternative treatment options, such as psychological therapies, are available across Wales. Response: Accept
Recommendation 4. The Welsh Government should ensure that additional guidance is produced and promoted in relation to safe tapering of prescription medications, both for patients and health professionals. Response: Accept
Recommendation 5. The Welsh Government should provide an update on the actions carried out in response to Recommendation 8 of the Health and Social Care Committee’s inquiry into Alcohol and Substance Misuse published in August 2015.
(This was not a matter brought up in the initial petition and has a different pinciple. ed AJ)
Recommendation 6. The Welsh Government should determine whether SSRI and SNRI antidepressants should be added to the list of drugs targeted for reduction, and should introduce a national prescribing indicator to support closer monitoring of prescribing volumes and patterns across Wales. This indictor should be used to identify areas where further investigation or intervention may be required. Response: Reject
(comment – Saddened this wasn’t accepted as it would be a huge leap to monitor how much and for how long SSRI and SNRI’s are prescribed for and therefore have foresight into how many patients will struggle and be affected by their withdrawal. Gov could then plan a coherent strategy in knowledge of how many will require assistance going forward. ed AJ)
Recommendation 7. The Welsh Government should investigate, as a priority, the potential for a national rollout of a service based upon the Prescribed Medication Support Service operating within Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, in order to ensure that specific advice and support is available for people who require assistance with prescription medication. Response: Accept in principle
Recommendation 8. The Welsh Government should create opportunities for a coordinated strategy and greater information-sharing between health boards in relation to prescribed drug dependence, with a view to improved sharing of best practice and to ensure equity of services and support to patients. Response: Accept
Recommendation 9. NHS Wales should make better use of the expertise of pharmacists to support evidence-based prescribing, patient monitoring including regular patient reviews, and increased provision of help with tapering and withdrawing from medication. Response: Accept
Recommendation 10. The Welsh Government should conduct and publish an assessment of the sufficiency of the advice available to people experiencing prescription drug dependence and withdrawal through the DAN24/7 helpline, including the adequacy of training for operators. The Welsh Government should ensure that the availability of advice related to prescribed drug dependence is promoted appropriately. Response: Accept