Program aims to reduce prescription opioid dependence

North Coast Primary Health Network (NCPHN) is working with health professionals and community members on the Mid North Coast to address the high prescription opioid dependence in the region.

The Mid North Coast Kempsey-Nambucca region ranked the highest for opioid prescriptions dispensed in NSW in 2013. (NHPA 2015 Atlas)

Opioids are medicines to relieve moderate to severe pain and include prescribed drugs such as endone and oxycontin, as well as patches such as fentanyl for cancer pain and norspan for arthritis.

Used skilfully they provide relief to people with acute pain, cancer patients and those who are in palliative care.

Any community member concerned about their use of prescribed opioids is advised to see their GP.

Since 2017 NCPHN has been collaborating with health professionals and community members to design strategies to address this high opioid dependence.

The issue was brought into sharper focus in February 2018 when over the counter codeine medications were upscheduled to prescription only.

In response to identified needs to reduce prescription opioid use, NCPHN has provided Commonwealth funding for a number of local initiatives.

These include:

  • Commissioning Mid North Coast public hospitals to improve their pain management approaches when patients enter and leave hospital to reduce the risk of long-term opioid dependence. This includes more patient health coaching about Pain Management Plans and Opioid de-Prescribing Action Plans on discharge.
  • Commissioning the Agency for Clinical Innovation to provide webinar education and phone-based mentorship from the Royal North Shore Pain Clinic in Sydney. This will increase the knowledge, skills and confidence of doctors and nurses to deliver non-pharmacological pain management for those with chronic non-cancer pain.
  • Updating guidelines for GP Pain Management Action Plans and Opioid De-prescribing Action Plans within general practice clinical software.

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