GP practices across Central Lancashire are to be checked to see whether they are prescribing the strongest painkillers safely.
A review will be carried out to determine whether the level of opiate medication being given to patients has reduced since fresh advice was issued to surgeries in the region last year.
The Greater Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) first audited opiate prescriptions in the area following publication of a report into the drugs’ role in the premature deaths of 450 patients at the Gosport War Memorial Hospital in Hampshire.
“We picked up practices which were prescribing these pretty high doses of opiates,” Dr Praphulla Methukunta, a GP director on Greater Preston CCG, told a meeting of the governing body.
“Pharmacists [visited] practices and did some training with GPs. We gave them clear guidance about what sort of opiates should be used and [the levels] which you cannot exceed.
“We are now going to do a re-audit to see how much of a difference it’s made and how much of a reduction there has been in opiate prescribing,” Dr Methukunta explained.
The area’s CCGs also take part in a controlled drugs forum with NHS England, which fellow GP director, Dr. Hari Nair, said was another way of highlighting any prescribing which was “out of order”.
“Practices are being sent questionnaires identifying patients [receiving] high opiate prescriptions [and requesting] an explanation,” he added.
Opiate drugs are a group of powerful painkillers which include codeine and morphine. They work to depress the nervous system and so reduce pain.