Release is currently assisting one service user with legal action against a drug service for stopping their Methadone prescription without a valid clinical reason. We believe that this action is negligent, and the withdrawal symptoms that resulted caused the client unnecessary pain and suffering.
Unfortunately this is not an isolated case. We are experiencing an increase in calls via our national helpline from people who have had their opiate substitution medication stopped (normally through a ban from accessing the drug service) because of seemingly petty reasons, including personality clashes and minor disagreements with service staff on the grounds that this is threatening and abusive behaviour. The Clinical Guidelines state that ending a prescription should be a last resort, but this is often not the case and the power not to prescribe is wielded over service users as a threat. Even when such an action has to be taken, the ‘duty of care’ should not end at this point.
This is plainly wrong and Release want to help challenge this practice. Have you, or someone you know, experienced this? If so, we would like you to get in touch as we may be able to help with legal action that decides that the action was unreasonable and must be reversed, or that it was negligent and caused you physical and/or mental injury.
This is an untested area of law as it hasn’t been considered before by a Court, and the availability of funding for these claims is also complicated, so there are no guarantees about what (if any) action can be taken, or what the outcome might be. But here at Release we want to bring this to the attention of Judges, and the public, and let those drug services responsible know that what is happening is unacceptable and potentially life-threatening.
Here’s a simple checklist to help you decide if you should contact us:
· Within the last 3 years…
· Methadone or other substitute prescription stopped for a non-clinical reason; and
· Unable to access other treatment services for a time, or at all; and
· Suffered withdrawal symptoms and/or used street heroin instead.
** There are other issues around income and capital that may affect an action being taken **
If this sounds at all familiar please contact our Head of Legal Services, Kirstie Douse via email or on 0207 324 2982 to discuss your case further.