Email from John Perrott to Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (15 May 2012)

Dear Earl Howe,

Attached is a FOI response on behalf of Westminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Brent, Harrow, Hounslow, Hillingdon and Ealing PCTs.

This is a typical response I have received from PCTs in England and directly contradicts statements and assertions made by you, Anne Milton MP and Mark Edgington and in the draft consensus statement.

Yours sincerely,

John Perrott


Dear Mr Perrott

I am writing from NHS North West London which administers Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) requests on behalf ofWestminster, Hammersmith & Fulham, Kensington & Chelsea, Brent,Harrow, Hounslow, Hillingdon and Ealing PCTs.  This response is on behalf of INWL PCTs (Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, andWestminster)

You requested the following:

Please can you tell me what services your PCT/CCG provides for patients who are dependent upon prescribed only benzodiazepine and z drug tranquillisers and sleeping tablets and who do not abuse these or other substances?

Would you please include details of the availability of withdrawal advice and support?

In my experience the Drugs and Alcohol Teams routinely do not treat involuntary tranquilliser addiction but only illicit addiction.

The response to your request is as follows:

Practitioners within the INWL PCTs are advised to follow the advice in the British National Formulary (BNF) with regards to prescribing hypnotics, and that they should not be prescribed indiscriminately and that routine prescribing is undesirable.  Where prolonged administration is unavoidable hypnotics should be discontinued as soon as feasible and the patient warned that sleep may be disturbed for a few days before normal rhythm is re-established;  broken sleep with vivid dreams may persist or several weeks.

There is no specialised service addressing the patients who are dependent upon prescribed only benzodiazepine and z drug tranquillisers and sleeping tablets and who do not abuse these or other substances within INWL PCT area.   The Royal College of General Practitioners would offer advice and support to GP’s  progressing a withdrawal regime with their patient.  There is also information and guidance available from National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and easily accessed via the internet. 

You are correct in your assumption that the specialist drug and alcohol services within  INWL  PCT’s catchment does treat tranquiliser addiction when combined with illicit substance misuse but not stand alone tranquilliser addiction unless illicit.    They are not commissioned to carry out this function and there is a recognition that the needs of the cohort you refer to are significantly different to those who are illicit substance misusers.

Specialist services do offer advice and guidance however would refer individuals back to primary care services for the management of their care which might include a withdrawal regime.  

If you are dissatisfied with how your request has been handled, you can complain by emailing FOI@nw.london.nhs.uk . If you remain dissatisfied after your complaint has been addressed, you are entitled to appeal to the Information Commissioner by writing to:

The Information Commissioner
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
SK9 5AF

Telephone: 01625 545700

Further information on the Freedom of Information Act is available at: http://www.ico.gov.uk/

If you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Lall
Freedom of Information Lead

Click here to view a copy of the letter

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