Wigan GP surgery drastically cuts opioid prescriptions to tackle hidden crisis

Staff at Marsh Green GP Practice
Staff at Marsh Green GP Practice

A Wigan GP surgery in one of the borough’s most deprived areas is tackling a hidden opioid crisis, cutting its number of prescriptions by a third.

Marsh Green Medical Practice, which once had the highest opioid prescription level in Wigan, has drastically reduced the number of scripts it gives out for these medications.

Last month, shocking Public Health figures revealed that Wigan is in the midst of a silent opioid crisis, with a sixth of the adult population taking highly-addictive painkillers last year.

Since taking over the practice last year, Ashton-based SSP Health, has introduced an “opioid reduction programme”, which has been highly-praised by the borough’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

Dr Majed Hussain, Marsh Green Medical Practice GP, said: “We identified that we were high prescribers of opioid medication for chronic pain management. There was also increasing evidence for the lack of effect on chronic pain with long-term opioid use, as well as increased risk of harm to the health of the user.

“There is a national crisis of opiate overuse in the USA and the rest of the world is trying to learn from that to avoid a similar situation.

“With the help of our medicines management technician, we decided to concentrate on our prescribing of potent oral and non-oral opioids, as well as tramadol.

“I reviewed the notes of all patients on these drugs and started inviting them in for a medication review, with an aim to reduce long-term opioid burden and consider treatments with greater evidence for effectiveness.

“We have seen significant reductions in our opioid prescribing across the board.

“Most patients were able to reduce or withdraw from opioids completely. Even patients with the most challenging pain issues were able to reduce their total opioid burden, hence reducing their risk of opioid-related health problems.”

The government data shows that 44,008 adults in the CCG area received at least one prescription for opioid painkillers in 2017-18 – 17 per cent of the adult population.

More than half the residents on a prescription for the drugs during March last year had been taking them for a year or more, the study found.