Letter: Prescribing GPs can help drug-addicted patients as much as specialists

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was interested to see your article 'Prescribing scheme cut drug-related crime' (15 May). However, the article was inaccurate. I accept that the service given to addicts by Dr John Marks in Merseyside is excellent. However, it is not true that such patients have to be referred to specialists for this service. GPs with a special interest in addiction are offering this service in many parts of the country, and have been doing so for many years.

In my practice, we have a protocol for managing and prescribing for addicts that has been discussed with the Home Office Drugs Inspectorate and the local drugs squad. In all cases, patients are offered a way out of drug abuse and alternative treatments, but where this is refused opiates are prescribed. We audit the outcomes for our patients and have also noted a marked decrease in criminal activity by these patients. We have published papers about our programme in such journals as the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Update and Maternal & Child Health.

We are by no means unique. There are at least two other practices in Bedford that treat patients according to similar protocols and many more all over the United Kingdom.

This activity by general practitioners has been the result of doctors recognising the problems of patients they know well, and quietly, and with little publicity, managing their problems after gaining agreement from the licensing authorities. I suppose that, in fact, this is what general practice is about.

Yours faithfully,



15 May