NHS England urges more doctors and health care professionals to sign up to national pledge to stop overmedication for people with a learning disability, autism or both

NHS England is today (25 April 2018) asking more doctors and health care professionals to sign up to a pledge to stop the overmedication of people with a learning disability, autism or both.

The renewed drive to widen support for Stopping OverMedication of People with a Learning Disability (STOMP), is being backed by the government and will target NHS trusts, CCGs and those in the independent  sector, to review and seek alternatives to prescribing psychotropic drug prescriptions.

Representatives from these healthcare providers across the country will be invited to the launch being held at Gosforth Theatre in Newcastle and asked to sign up to the STOMP pledge to help make sure psychotropic drugs are only used for the right reason, in the right amount, for as short a time as possible.

An estimated 35,000 adults with a learning disability, autism or both are being prescribed an antipsychotic, an antidepressant or both without appropriate clinical justification. Long-term use of these drugs can lead to significant weight gain, organ failure and, in some cases, death.

The STOMP pledge was launched in June 2016  supported by a number of professional bodies including the Royal Colleges of Nursing, Psychiatrists and GPs, as well as the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, the British Psychological Society and the Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF).

A STOMP pledge for social care followed in May 2017. So far more than 60 providers supporting nearly 60, 000 people with a learning disability, autism or both have signed up to this pledge to take action to stop over-medication.

NHS England now wants all healthcare providers to commit to the STOMP pledge to “work together, and with people with a learning disability and their loved ones, to take real and measurable steps to stop over-medication”.

John Trevains, NHS England’s Head of Mental Health and Learning Disability Nursing said: “It is really important that people only receive psychotropic medication when all other approaches have been considered.

“Everyone, including the person with a learning disability, autism or both, and their families, needs to be involved in the decision -making and clear about why such medication is needed. They need to be aware of the serious side effects and understand how often and when the medication will be reviewed.

“In both the NHS and independent sector, healthcare providers have a very important role to play in working together with health and social care partners in stopping overmedication of these powerful drugs to ensure a better quality of life for people with a learning disability, autism or both.”

Supporting the launch, Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Care, with responsibility for learning disabilities and autism, said: “Like most people I am deeply concerned about the over prescribing of powerful medications to people with a learning disability, autism, or both to manage behaviours that are seen as challenging. I fully support the commitments to STOMP that aim to challenge this practice with a view to improving a person’s quality of life.

“The development of a pledge for healthcare providers builds on this existing good work and will allow organisations to showcase how a person’s care is being improved through the principles of STOMP.

I now challenge all healthcare providers to sign up to this important pledge initiative and truly focus their efforts to transform peoples’ lives.”

Dave Gerrard, an advanced pharmacist practitioner at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and joint pharmacist lead for the STOMP programme at NHS England, said: “As a pharmacist it is difficult to recommend ongoing use of powerful medications to manage behaviour thought to be challenging when there is little evidence to prove its worth.

“When I see people who have taken such medication, often for more than 10 years without review, I know that STOMP can provide the framework to make sure people achieve the best quality of life by balancing the use of medication with other ways of helping such as positive behaviour support.

“Medication has its place but needs to be used at the lowest dose for the shortest time before being challenged and reviewed. This to me is the essence of STOMP and something I believe passionately about.”