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Picton Opioid Prescription Agreement leader wins Open for leadership award

25 May 2017 | Building Leadership & Capability

The latest recipient of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s Open for leadership award is Picton Medical Centre GP, Dr Jessica Sterenborg.

She was nominated by the Nelson Marlborough Primary Health Organisation (PHO) for her leadership in instigating the Opioid Prescription Agreement which the practice has recently implemented.

The Open for leadership awards are coordinated by the Health Quality & Safety Commission. They recognise and celebrate health professionals who demonstrate excellent practice, quality improvement and leadership skills. They are part of the Commission’s work to build capability and leadership in the health sector.

The Commission’s Public Health Medicines Specialist Maria Poynter presented the award to Dr Sterenborg, saying Jessica’s exemplary leadership in initiating and driving a project to improve the management of patients suffering chronic pain made her a deserving recipient.

Dr Sterenborg said she was concerned about the risks associated with taking opioids.

‘I audited the previous 12 month’s opiate prescriptions, focusing on patients who were receiving regular prescriptions. I researched national and international guidelines, as well as current practices for prescribing opiates and management of chronic pain,’ she says.

‘I met with local specialists in the area, including Dr Buzz Burrell from the Chronic Pain Service, and Dr Mike Haskew from Addiction Services in Nelson, to learn how they’re currently managing opiate prescription, opiate addiction and chronic pain.’

When she took this information back to the medical practice, the team made a decision to stop prescribing oxycodone other than in palliative care.

‘The evidence suggests that the potential risks far outweigh the benefits and we decided to create a practice policy and patient opiate agreement …something used in many practices around the world,’ she said.

Once that decision was taken, Dr Sterenborg wrote the Opioid Prescription Agreement and the practice policy for opiate prescription and monitoring, and also gained PHO support to fund a double appointment for each patient on long term opiates.

‘This meant we could offer each patient a 30-minute appointment to discuss the agreement, emphasise the risks involved in taking opiates long-term and address other aspects of the management of their chronic pain syndrome including other, non-opiate, analgesia,’ she says.

‘We could also address the psychosocial aspects of pain including sleep, stress, diet, exercise, depression, and social stressors like work or finances.’

Dr Sterenborg also designed a protocol for the management of chronic pain, and collated a practitioner toolkit which includes the chronic pain management protocol and information regarding weaning opiates, managing opiate withdrawal, and switching between opiates.

A patient agreement is now in place at Picton Medical Centre, and it aims to:

  • increase understanding of the risks involved in taking long-term opiate analgesia
  • emphasise the importance of addressing psychosocial aspects of managing chronic pain
  • promote communication between the patient and doctor
  • improve medication safety and promote safe prescribing
  • avoid misunderstandings and conflict.

The project has been a great success from both the patient and staff perspective. Dr Sterenborg says patients report that they feel they better understand the risks involved in taking opiates regularly, and that other aspects of their condition have been considered and their management optimised.

‘Our medical centre staff have noticed a significant reduction in requests for early repeat prescriptions or requests to replace lost or stolen prescriptions.’

Dr Sterenborg said she was humbled to discover she had been nominated by Marlborough PHO CEO Beth Tester for the award.

‘‘I am grateful or her recognition and feel honoured to be a recipient of the Open for leadership award.’

As an award recipient, Dr Sterenborg received a certificate, a trophy and attendance at an upcoming Commission event of her choice.

For more information on the Open for leadership awards and to view previous recipients click here.


Last updated 25/05/2017