Guide launched to help primary care reduce harm from opioids

The West of England AHSN have launched a new easy to follow guide for healthcare professionals working in primary care. The guide will support clinicians to identify patients at risk from opioid prescribing, includes templates and ideas as well as providing information on training and examples of best practice initiatives.

The free guide has been produced as part of our work to deliver the NHS England-commissioned Medicines Safety Improvement Programme (known as MedSIP). MedSIP is focused on improving the care of people living with non-cancer chronic pain by reducing the prescribing of high-risk opioids. The guide also provides a framework for activity to support the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF) and Investment and Impact Fund incentives. In 2022/2023, there is a drive (as part of QOF) to use non-pharmacological alternatives, identifying review patients taking high dose medicines and to reduce the use of dependence forming medicines.

There is no evidence for the efficacy of high dose opioids (>120mg/day morphine equivalent) on long term pain. The Faculty of Pain Medicine has advised that increasing opioid load above this dose is unlikely to yield further benefits but exposes the patient to increased harm. Despite this, Public Health England’s review (2019) shows that in 2017 to 2018, 540,000 adults in England were prescribed opioid pain medicines for 3 years or more.

The effects of COVID-19 are anticipated to have exacerbated the use of opioids for chronic pain, which is linked to both deprivation and the prevalence of mental health conditions such as anxiety.

Chris Learoyd, Senior Project Manager at the AHSN, said:

“Reducing harm from opioids is vital, and we’ve had really positive feedback on this work so far. It’s important healthcare professionals working in primary care have access to the latest information and resources to lead effective conversations with patients about pain management, and this guide will support this core ambition of the Medicines Safety Improvement Programme”.

Download our harm reduction guide.

Find out more and access other resources to support delivery of MedSIP.

Medicines Optimisation Collaborative launched

The West of England AHSN launched a local Medicines Optimisation Collaborative as part of the Patient Safety Collaborative programme on 4 November 2015.

The event was attended by 54 people from our member organisations across the region. Feedback on the day was very positive with 100% of attendees rating the event as either excellent or good.

Attendees got to watch the new video from the Health Foundation called Pills and found this a powerful example of service improvement in medicines safety:

Attendees also had the opportunity to take part in a QI taster session as part of the West of England Academy. Find out more about the Academy’s work here.

The next steps are for member organisations to commit to testing and measuring specific change packages in the two priority areas of insulin safety and transfers of care. Feedback from collaborative members on how these tests of change are going will be fed back at the next event in late spring 2016.

If you would like to sign up for more information and to take part in future events in the medicines collaborative, please register here.


Folium Optics wins £1 million funding to develop ‘My Health Tag’ technology

Bristol-based Folium Optics has been awarded £1 million funding in the latest SBRI Healthcare competition to develop ‘My Health Tags’, an innovative new product designed to improve medicines adherence.

A plastics display technology business set up by two former employees of Hewlett Packard Labs, Folium Optics has created the prototype in partnership with Pumpco and Designability. This significant funding award will enable the company to further develop their technology and carry out the first clinical evaluation.

The West of England AHSN has provided Folium Optics with valuable advice, particularly on how to work effectively with the healthcare sector and who they needed to be talking to. The collaboration with Pumpco and Designability, for example, was a direct result of them meeting at one of our networking events. We also supported them through the SBRI application process.

The problem

Up to half of prescribed medicines are not used as the prescriber intended. Non-adherence – or under-use – represents not only a missed opportunity for health improvement but also a danger to patient health and significant waste of resources. One recent study estimates medicines non-adherence costs the NHS more than £500 million per year.

The solution

To tackle this problem of non-adherence, Folium Optics has developed a ‘smart’ electronic tag which is attached to medical packaging, wirelessly linked to a remote cloud service and a separate portable reminder unit. The reusable, lightweight tags feature an ‘always-on’ display, showing clearly what medicine needs to be taken and when.

The tags still work if the medication is taken outside the home and can be easily configured by pharmacists, carers and users. The technology integrates well with people’s lifestyles, making it easier for them to manage their medication, and acts as a bridge to higher intervention solutions such as medicine compliance aids.

Folium Optics has initially targeted the 65 to 75 year old age group and is now developing the system for wider use.

“This is a great example of how companies in the high tech sector can bring in new skills and apply them to delivering effective solutions to health care problems.”

Steve Kitson, CEO of Folium Optics, said: “We are delighted to win the SBRI funding. It allows us to take the next step in developing our technology and ultimately to help more patients.

“We are grateful to the West of England AHSN for the support they have given us to date, particularly in helping us bring together such a strong team to deliver the project. Pumpco and Designability will help us deliver the technology, while the Bristol Heart Institute will lead the clinical evaluation. We’re really looking forward to working together to develop a solution that will help so many patients.”

Lars Sundstrom, Director of Enterprise at the West of England AHSN, added: “This is a great example of how companies in the high tech sector can bring in new skills and apply them to delivering effective solutions to health care problems.”

Current SBRI competition

The latest SBRI Healthcare competition is focusing on ‘Reducing Pressure on Urgent and Emergency Care’, and is being run in partnership with the South West and Greater Manchester AHSNs. Find out more here.