In the UK it is believed that over 30,000 people with a learning disability are prescribed medication designed to treat conditions such as psychosis, depression and anxiety, without a formal mental health diagnosis.
Psychotropic medication, which is commonly used in the treatment of mental health conditions, is also sometimes prescribed to those with learning disabilities to manage behaviours that are seen as challenging.
While these medications can be helpful, side effects associated with these can be contributing factors to premature morbidity.
On average, people with a learning disability die up to 20 years sooner than the general population. At Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust we are committed to addressing health inequalities, that’s why we have pledged our support to STOMP, a national campaign to stop the over medication of people with a learning disability, autism or both.
Neelakandan Murugesan, clinical director, adult learning disabilities services, Durham and Darlington said “At TEWV we put the people in our care at the centre of everything we do. Making sure that their medication is appropriate is fundamental to this.
“Sometimes individuals were placed on medication many years ago to address a particular need. Over time people may believe this is an essential component in helping an individual to stay well.
“As a Trust we encourage staff working with those with a learning disability or autism to explore alternative approaches to medication. We have developed a positive behaviour support pathway to help staff manage behaviours that are seen as challenging and have hosted awareness raising sessions within our services.
“We have also conducted audits to ensure that psychotropic medication use within our adult community learning disability services are compliant with national guidance.
“If you, or someone you care for or support, has a learning disability and is prescribed psychotropic medication we would encourage you to discuss the reasons with your care team.
“Working together we can make sure that people are receiving the right care and treatment to improve their quality of their life.
Chris Williams, chief pharmacist said “For some people psychotropic medications are needed to support their recovery and manage their mental health. Together, we need to regularly review the reasons for prescribed medication; is the medication and dose still appropriate or would it be appropriate for some adjustments to be made and other alternatives put in place?
“It is important that you speak to your prescriber before stopping any medication. Stopping medication abruptly may cause symptoms to return or could cause unpleasant or dangerous adverse effects. That’s why it’s important to speak to your care team who can make sure a plan is in place to keep you well.”
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