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Prescription Drugs: Addictions

Question for Department of Health and Social Care

UIN 100583, tabled on 10 January 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, with reference to the Public Health England review of dependence forming medicines, what plans he has to commission (a) a 24 hour helpline, (b) dedicated local withdrawal services, (c) an investigation into the harms caused by long-term prescribing of benzodiazepines and z drugs and (d) mandatory prescribing guidelines for dependence forming drugs such as benzodiazepines and z drugs, as a result of that review.

Answered on

18 January 2022

NHS England and NHS Improvement are currently co-ordinating an assessment of the viability of a 24-hour helpline to support those dependent on prescription medicines. Decisions to provide local withdrawal services should be made by clinical commissioning groups and integrated care systems with local authority public health partners, as they have responsibility for commissioning local services to meet the needs of their population.

There are no plans to undertake further investigation into the harms caused by long-term prescribing of benzodiazepines and z drugs as the risks associated with these drugs are well established in Public Health England’s review. However, consideration will be given to any new emerging evidence. We have no plans to introduce mandatory prescribing guidelines. It is a contractual and professional obligation to follow the guidance set out by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), unless this does not meet a patient’s clinical needs. NICE recently consulted on draft guidance on safe prescribing and withdrawal management of medicines associated with dependence or withdrawal symptoms. The consultation closed on 2 December 2021 and the guidance is due to be published in April 2022.