NHS Lothian failed to warn patient that opioid pain drugs can be addictive

Health chiefs have been forced to apologise to a patient after failing to warn that their pain medication was addictive.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 4:55 am

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NHS Lothian has been rapped on the knuckles by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman (SPSO), a government watchdog that holds public authorities to account, after complaints from a patient who received neurosurgery.

The patient, who can only be referred to as ‘C’, complained to the SPSO that the surgery they received under the care of NHS Lothian was inadequate, and they had not been able to fully consent to the surgery due to the time pressure and a lack of information provided by healthcare professionals.

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Opioid painkillers can become addictive

Patient C also complained that the health board’s management of their pain medication was unreasonable, and that they had not been warned of the potential for opiate pain relief to become an addiction.

Now, the SPSO has said it could find no records showing that C was informed of the benefits and risks of surgery prior to the operation, nor could it find evidence C was informed that the pain medication was addictive.

A report from the SPSO reads: “The board [NHS Lothian] responded that the surgery had been performed correctly and that a lengthy consultation had been held with C prior to surgery by the operating consultant neurosurgeon (a surgeon who specialises in surgery on the nervous system, especially the brain and spinal cord).

“We took independent advice from a consultant neurosurgeon. We found that the surgery had been performed to a reasonable standard and that the board’s management of C’s pain medication was also reasonable.

“However, we identified a lack of records illustrating any discussion with C about the potential benefits, risks or complications of surgery prior to the operation.

“We also identified a lack of records illustrating any discussion with C regarding the potential for opiates to become habit-forming.

“In the absence of such records we were unable to say whether C received appropriate information. Therefore, on balance, we upheld both complaints.”

Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “We apologise for the failings in this case and have issued a written apology to C for the distress that was caused."

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