Chief Nurse backs stomp it out drugs campaign

An ongoing fight to raise awareness of over-medication of people with learning disabilities has been welcomed by the country’s top nurse.

As it reached its first anniversary today Professor Jane Cummings spoke out in support of stop the over-medication of people with a learning disability or autism (STOMP) – a major initiative aimed at curbing the amount of powerful drugs being prescribed.

It’s estimated that every day up to 35,000 with a learning disability take a prescribed psychotropic, but don’t have a diagnosed mental health condition. This can lead to significant side-effects impacting on the quality of life.

Professor Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, said: “We know that over-medication is a particular issue for people with learning disabilities, autism, or both. It can lead to many physical health problems, and even premature death and it has an impact on people’s quality of life, and ability to make decisions about their lives.

“They should expect the same quality of care, the same good health and the same opportunities as everyone else – and, above all, the same quality of life.  That’s why NHS England is leading this campaign to stop the over-medication of people with a learning disability or autism (STOMP).”

STOMP is part of NHS England’s three-year national plan to transform care and reduce health inequalities for people with a learning disability, autism or both, and is supported by the royal colleges and organisations from social care – who have pledged to involve their members in supporting the campaign throughout the country.  So far, over 100 social care organisations have signed up, supporting over 40,000 people, and a UK-wide learning package has been designed for the 65,000 membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.

Dr Ashok Roy said: “The Royal College of Psychiatrists and the Learning Disability Professional Senate are determined to make STOMP happen.  We will work in our learning disability teams and with general practice colleagues to reduce the harm caused by inappropriate use of psychotropic medication. We will promote comprehensive monitoring of medication, and the timely use of evidence based psychosocial interventions.”

Today’s anniversary is being marked in the North East by the MiXiT Theatre Group who are performing a play about the subject in Gosforth.

Jane Cummings added: “It means so much to us to have MiXiT perform about STOMP, because they genuinely understand what this campaign means and so make it real for the people and their families whose lives we’re trying to improve and is a powerful reminder for clinicians. This is about breaking down health inequalities, and giving people every opportunity to thrive. When people are prescribed medication that they don’t need, we prevent them from reaching their full potential, from living well. This has to stop.

“We are delighted to have so much support – from royal colleges, both NHS and social care providers, and many other groups including those with first-hand experience of the harmful effects of over-medication. All the right support is in place for us to succeed, and we know how to fix the problem; so I urge every one of you to get behind this campaign and let’s together give people the best health and the best life that we can.”

MiXiT’s members include people with a learning disability, autism or both and the group’s play is based on the experience of former nurse, Hazel Griffiths and her son Mark who has autism. It is being performed at the Gosforth Civic Theatre which is managed and run by Liberdade Community Development Trust, a social enterprise theatre which aims to break down misconceptions of learning disability.