Overview of the programme

Over half a million people in England are prescribed opioid analgesia for longer than three months, the majority having chronic pain that is not associated with cancer. 

Opioids are highly effective and, when used carefully, are of great benefit to many people living with pain. However, in the case of chronic non-cancer pain, when the source of long-term pain does not have a cause that can be treated, opioids can do more harm than good, particularly when used at higher doses. Around 6,000 people a year are hospitalised with adverse events whilst taking opioids for extended periods (NHSBSA). 

The medicines safety improvement programme (MedSIP) is led by the National Patient Safety Team and delivered by AHSN-hosted Patient Safety Collaboratives (PSCs). MedSIP supports the NHS England Patient Safety Strategy. 

Aim: Reduce the severe harm and death associated with medicines by 50% over 5 years. 

Objectives: The programme aims to address the most important causes of severe harm associated with medicines, most of which have been known for years but continue to challenge our health and care systems. The programme brings the science of continuous safety improvement to safety culture, safety systems and high-risk medicines in common use. 

Key ambitions: 

PSCs, working with at least 15 Integrated Care Systems, will collectively achieve the following by the end of March 2023: 

  • 30,000 fewer people prescribed oral or transdermal opioids (of any dose) for more than 3 months.

National enquiry

To find out more about any of our national programmes, please complete this form.

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