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Controlled drugs

Categories:
  • Organisations we regulate

This section provides information about our role and the legal responsibilities of healthcare providers that handle controlled drugs.

You can also download the Self assessment tools for primary care providers/commissioners and acute NHS trusts or independent hospitals.

Our work to oversee the safer management of controlled drugs

Our work involves:

  • providing external scrutiny on how other regulators and agencies work together following the Government's response on the management of controlled drugs after the fourth report of the Shipman inquiry.
  • leading a national group of the regulators and agencies involved in different aspects of the management and use of controlled drugs, to look at national trends in their use.
  • reporting to Government on how partner organisations work together.
  • assessing and overseeing how health and social care providers manage controlled drugs.
  • taking part in local intelligence networks led by primary care trusts. These networks bring together organisations from the NHS and independent health, and other responsible bodies, regulators and agencies including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, NHS counter fraud and security management services and police services.

Self assessment tools

Tools for primary care

These are currently under review.

Tool for secondary care NHS trusts

This self-assessment tool is intended for secondary care NHS trusts and acute NHS foundation trusts. It is a resource designed to help them assess their performance in controlled drugs governance in order to identify any gaps and drive improvement.

Although this tool is aimed at secondary care NHS trusts, large acute independent hospitals may also find it useful in assessing their controlled drugs responsibilities. They are therefore encouraged to use the tool and apply it to the areas that are relevant to the circumstances of their organisation.

This tool is currently under review.

Please note: each tool is in Excel spreadsheet format and contains macros. When you download it, please remember to select "enable macros" to ensure that the scoring facility works.

Annual reports

Our latest annual report on the safe management of controlled drugs 2013.

We found the prescribing trends for controlled drugs were:

  • In 2013, the total number of controlled drugs items prescribed in NHS primary care was 47,044,814, which is a decrease of 1% compared with 2012. The cost of this was £498,942,743 representing an increase of 10% compared with £452,761,855 in 2012.
  • The prescribing of temazepam – a benzodiazepine hypnotic (sleeping agent) has continued to fall steadily since 2007. Between 2012 and 2013, prescriptions fell by 355,357.However, it is likely that the non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, zolpidem, zopiclone and zaleplon, are now being prescribed instead.
  • At the same time (since 2007) there have been increases in prescribing of morphine sulphate, oxycodone, fentanyl, methylphenidate and midazolam.
  • Private prescribing of controlled drugs decreased by 6% in 2013 (36,935 items), compared with 2012 (39,203 items). Private prescribing accounts for about 0.1% of overall controlled drug prescribing.
  • The use of drugs to provide relief for severe and long term pain management has increased, with use of Morphine up by 223,838 between 2012 to 2013 and use of Fentanyl up by 42,155 between from 2012 to 2013.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) drug, methylphenidate continues to rise steadily in use from last year by 68,458. Private prescriptions for this drug increased by 7% in 2013.

The following seven recommendations have been made.

  1. NHS England controlled drug accountable officers must be adequately resourced to carry out their roles and responsibilities with regard to controlled drugs.
  2. NHS England controlled drug accountable officers must be clear about their responsibilities for controlled drug governance arrangements and strengthen their relationships with clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and commissioning support units (CSUs) so that these organisations are clear as to how they can support them.
  3. NHS England controlled drug accountable officers should consider organising learning events for controlled drug accountable officer colleagues and controlled drug leads, to enable them to share learning and best practice.
  4. NHS England controlled drug accountable officers should consider extending membership of the controlled drug local intelligence network to other relevant local organisations (such as social enterprise organisations or community interest companies) either on a permanent or ‘as required’ basis.
  5. A formal process should be put in place by NHS England controlled drug accountable officers to ensure controlled drug concerns and good practice are shared nationally where appropriate.
  6. Healthcare providers must determine whether they are required to appoint a controlled drug accountable officer or whether they meet the criteria for an exemption.
  7. The Care Quality Commission should summarise the key messages from the Controlled Drugs National Group meetings and circulate them to NHS England controlled drug accountable officers to pass on to members of their controlled drug local intelligence networks.

The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2013 PDF | 983.04 KB

National group on controlled drugs 2013 PDF | 224.16 KB

Previous reports

If you want to find out more about our work on the safer management of controlled drugs, you can read our annual reports from previous years.

The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2012 National group on controlled drugs 2012 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2011 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2011 (Summary) National group on controlled drugs 2011 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2010 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2010 (Summary) National group on controlled drugs 2010 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2009 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2008 The safer management of controlled drugs: Annual report 2007

Last updated:
19 August 2014