Up to 35,000 people with a learning disability take a prescribed psychotropic drug every day despite not having a diagnosed mental health problem, according to NHS England.
Chief nurse Jane Cummings has put her name behind the STOMP campaign, which seeks to reduce the number of patients with learning disabilities who take prescription drugs for no reason, due to worries that significant side effects could impact quality of life.
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In its first year, the STOMP project has seen over 100 social care organisations sign up, supporting over 40,000 people, and a UK-wide learning package was designed for the 65,000 membership of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society.
Professor Cummings 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.
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‘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.’
Psychotropic medicines can have an important role in treating mental health conditions and can be used when a patient is at severe risk of harming themselves or others. They should be used alongside therapy or treatments which will result in them not being needed for long, according to NHS England guidance.
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The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) supports the initiative, designing pre-registration education for prospective nurses covering care for people with learning disabilities to include a section on over-medication.
STOMP is part of NHS England’s three-year national plan to reduce health inequalities for people with a learning disability, autism or both, and is supported by the royal colleges and organisations from social care.