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New project to decrease sleeping tablet prescriptions

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A new project aims to reduce the number of sleeping tablet prescriptions made each year, by improving access to cognitive behavioural therapy for people with insomnia.

It is a collaborative project between the Loughborough University Clinical Sleep Research Unit (CSRU) and Nottinghamshire Healthcare, which aims to provide a model of best practice for the treatment of patients with insomnia throughout the NHS.

In a series of clinical trials, the researchers have shown that cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) delivered by a therapist or as self-help can help improve symptoms regardless of the patient's age or underlying health conditions.

The programme operates alongside services that help patients with severe sleep disturbances, including GP surgeries and local pharmacies. The year-long programme of activities will also involve the deployment of evidence-based resources throughout the Nottinghamshire Healthcare area including training programmes in CBT-I, self-help literature, information sheets and an online support network.

Professor Kevin Morgan, director of the Loughborough University CSRU, said: ‘The overall aim of this initiative is to develop a national model for the safe and effective treatment of all NHS patients with insomnia.

‘To achieve this we don't need new treatments, but we do need to use all the available treatments more efficiently.

‘By connecting all those services which currently provide support for patients with sleep problems, and by sharing the products of world-class research, this initiative will aim to make Nottinghamshire the best place in England for insomnia treatment,' he added.

Dr. Maureen Tomeny, consultant clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Let's Talk-Wellbeing service for Nottinghamshire Healthcare, said: ‘This initiative combines two important NHS principles: putting research into practice, and integrating clinical services. Insomnia doesn't just affect people's sleep, it affects their lives. While the treatments to address this are already developed, they are not reaching the patients.

‘By encouraging holistic, evidence-based management, the aim of this important project is to improve our patient's quality of life and improve the efficiency of NHS services,' she said.

Around 10 per cent of the population suffers from insomnia according to the Office for National Statistics, with more people complaining of insomnia than of any other psychological symptom including anxiety, depression and pain.

Prescriptions for sleeping tablets currently cost the NHS up to £25 million each year. However, many patients have found that sleeping tablets only brought them minor benefits and they also pose a significant risk of harm.

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