Reducing the amount of antipsychotic drugs prescribed to people with learning difficulties

Antipsychotic drugs

Too many powerful antipsychotic medicines have been routinely prescribed for people with learning disabilities who present with behaviours that are difficult to manage.

We know this is true because last year NHS England pledged ‘rapid sustained action’ to stop it happening after reports from the Care Quality Commission, Public Health England and NHS Improving Quality highlighted the problem.

Public Health England found that although these drugs are designed and licensed to treat certain conditions, including psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety, many of the people who were prescribed them have no such diagnosis.

Helping with change

Danielle Adams and Chetan Shah’s article about the withdrawal of such medications, suggests how learning disability nurses can help to reduce the amount of powerful drugs that are prescribed to people with learning disabilities.

But reducing the prescribing of these drugs, which often have a powerful sedative effect, will have ramifications for how these patients are cared for.

Staff demands

As these drugs are being prescribed to help control or eliminate behaviours that are difficult to manage, there are likely to be increased demands on staff as they put in place appropriate care plans to meet any new needs that may arise.

Nobody wants to see patients sedated to make them ‘easy to manage,’ and nurses are in a prime position to help design appropriate care to ensure people with learning disabilities can live the most dignified and independent lives possible.

But it may be a difficult to meet that challenge, given the funding problems that are evident in the straitened times we live in.