Research launched to improve opioid treatment

University College London Hospitals (UCLH) is set to trial five interventions aimed at improving hospital care for people who use opioids.

The project will be led by London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and will centre on improving opioid substitution therapy (OST).

OST works by using medication to prevent withdrawal from opioid use. OST must be given promptly to avoid physical and psychological distress. However, delays do happen and can lead to the use of illicit drugs in hospital or patients leaving hospital against medical advice, which can lead to readmission.

The The iHOST (Improving Hospital Opioid Substitution Therapy) project will run at UCLH and UCL and has been developed in partnership with community drug treatment services and people who use opioids.

The interventions will include a 'My Meds' patient card, which a person who uses opioids can carry, so the hospital can identify the OST needed. There will also be a helpline for patients, training for hospital staff, creation of best practice hospital OST policy and a local iHOST champion in the hospital.

The interventions will first be developed and trialled at UCLH and will then be trialled at hospitals in Leeds and Stoke.

A toolkit will then be developed for hospitals across the country to support them to implement evidence-based practice for optimal management of people who use opioids.

Chief Investigator of the study at LSHTM Dr Magdalena Harris said: “The iHOST intervention responds to findings from my previous research with people who inject drugs in London. Many avoided going to hospital until they were at death’s door, and often would leave hospital before their treatment was completed. This is a huge problem – contributing not only to poor health outcomes for a vulnerable population, but increasing the burden placed on hospital staff.

“We found that fear of opioid withdrawal and experiences of delays in receiving OST was the main reason people were not accessing and completing hospital care. We are excited to be working with UCLH to trial iHOST as it holds great potential to improve outcomes for both patients and health care providers.”

Image by fernando zhiminaicela from Pixabay

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