Wirral Hospice St John’s Position Statement on Use of Opiates

Following the outcome of the recent enquiry at Gosport War Memorial Hospital, I would like to reassure all patients, carers, staff and supporters of the hospice of our safe practice regarding the use of strong painkilling medications such as opiates within the outpatient and inpatient units.

In line with national guidance, for some patients, it may become necessary to use opiate medications (such as morphine or oxycodone) to relieve symptoms such as pain or breathlessness. This may mean using an oral tablet or liquid or in some cases an injection or syringe driver (pump) over 24 hours. In all cases patients and carers are included in the decision to start using opiate medications, they are fully informed of the reasons why opiates have been suggested and any concerns they may have are listened to and discussed openly.

Opiate medications are always started at the lowest possible dose based on an individual’s need; this dose may then be increased if symptoms are not controlled. Opiate medications are never given with the intent to cause sedation or to shorten life and are only ever given to control unpleasant and potentially distressing symptoms.

If you have any concerns about the use of strong painkillers or any other medications within the hospice please contact myself or one of the other senior managers and we would be happy to discuss it further.

Dr Emma Longford
Consultant in Palliative Medicine & Medical Director, Wirral Hospice St John’s

Date: 26.06.18

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