Email from Josh Jarrett to Mark Edgington, Senior Policy Advisor, Department of Health (11 May 2012)

Dear Mark,

Thank you for sending me the update of the draft consensus statement and your updated version of the notes of the roundtable meeting on addiction to medicines held on 15 March 2012.

My comments are as follows:

1. I see that service users such as me do not have a vote and it is just the organisations that are being asked to sign so I conclude from this that service users are not considered full members of the round table and their views will not be represented on the consensus.

2. The updated consensus states that “For people with some conditions such as serious mental health issues, longer-term prescribing of suitable benzodiazepines may be appropriate”

This overrules the BNF guidelines and is a green light for further widespread mis-prescribing under the guise of “clinical judgement” which is the cause of the problem to begin with. Also, this allows doctors to continue maintenance prescribing so nothing is going to change and people will not get appropriate treatment.

3. I stated in my last email to you that the consensus is a DH procedure and has been imposed by the DH and you did not address this in your response. The members of the round table were selected by the DH, the actions were selected by the DH, the minutes which have been altered are written by the DH and the decision as to whether the group
meets or not is decided by the DH.

This is wholly unconstitutional and highly irregular and does not represent sufferers of involuntary tranquilliser addiction or provide any help for them. It is apparent that it is more important to get people to sign this consensus to give the pretence of action than it
is to actually do something. The round table, and in fact, the whole policy review on addiction to medicines has failed to take any action at all. Professor Ashton is right when she said in her letter to Anne Milton MP that “I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the Round Table Meetings organised by the Department of Health are designed mainly to give the illusion of activity by the DoH.”

4. You mention in your email a partnership approach.

Firstly, how can I be a partner if I am not a full member of the round table?

Secondly, several round table members are part of problem, for example:

• The RCGP – Clare Gerada clearly stated on Radio 4 “Face the Facts” (I was also on this programme) that it was a “prescribing success story” and she disputed the severity of withdrawal symptoms.
• The Royal College of Psychiatrists whose members are some of the worst mis-prescribers.
• The NTA, who do not understand ITA and deal with substance misuse.
• The MHRA who issue a plethora of tranquilliser licences and do not provide adequate warnings either on the PILs and SPCs (you did not address this from my last email).

In your email reply you also stated the intention to:
• Empower patients to make informed choice about their care
• Ensure all patients are treated with dignity and respect

The process does not empower patients or service users. The only empowering taking place is the empowerment of the mis-prescribers to continue mis-prescribing.

As for the dignity and respect you mention, is it dignified to prescribe a patient highly addictive drugs without their informed consent, ignoring guidelines put in place for safety, stigmatise those patients as misusers and then refuse to provide appropriate treatment
to reverse the illness caused by the healthcare system?

Anne Milton said on Radio 4 “Face the Facts”:

“I’ve met people who’ve been addicted to some of these drugs for 20 or 30 years – wrecked their lives, wrecked their jobs, wrecked their families. It’s a silent addiction. We all know about illegal drugs, we all know about alcohol, we don’t know about this group…. Well I think there has been some denial of the problem and I think that when you’re talking about drugs that are legally, albeit unwisely, prescribed causing a problem – you know it’s never really fitted anywhere, nobody wanted to grab hold of it – certainly not in denial now. We are going to get a grip of this and it needs to be dealt with on a number of different fronts, there’s no doubt about that.”

These are just empty words which produce no appropriate action. Rather than getting a grip of the whole problem, the issue has been delegated back to the perpetrators to continue mis-prescribing and ignoring guidelines. The issue of treatment is being returned to local authorities, which have taken no action over 50 years, with no funding and no direction provided.

Yours sincerely,

Josh Jarrett

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