Researchers are contacting previous patients who have undergone surgery at UCLH NHS Foundation Trust in 2022, who were not previously taking opioid medication and who were discharged home with opioid medications.

Why is the research being carried out?

Opioids (medications in the same family as morphine and oxycodone) are often used after surgery as they are some of the most effective painkillers available. This is necessary because pain is common after surgery and not treating it can be unpleasant to patients and can lead to delays in their recovery or other complications.  

Some people can find it difficult to stop using opioids once they have started for various reasons. This may be because they continue to experience pain they are not able to manage in another way, or because they have become dependent on these medications, for example. 

Some studies suggest that opioids prescribed at the time of surgery to patients who did not take them before may be causing many people to take these medications regularly after they have healed from their operation who would not otherwise have taken them. This can represent a problem to their health as using opioids long term has been associated with many negative health effects.

What does the research study aim to do?

This research study aims to contact patients who had elective surgery at UCLH NHS Foundation Trust and who were given opioid painkillers to take home and who did not take opioids before their procedure. The researchers will send information about the study by email to these patients approximately 3 months after they were discharged to invite them to take part in the study and will follow this up with a telephone call to confirm whether the patients want to take part.

Patients who take part in the study will participate in telephone interviews lasting between 30 minutes to one hour, during which they will be asked questions exploring their experience of pain, whether they are continuing to take these medications, what support they have received from the healthcare system and any concerns they may have about the use of these medications.

The findings of this study will allow the team to make recommendations regarding the advice and follow-up given to patients discharged with opioids following surgery, and to inform the development of services to support patients reduce their opioids after surgery if they find this difficult.

Is patient information being collected or used by researchers before patients choose to take part in the study?

Patients who are eligible to join the study will be identified by a computer programme which will automatically search for patients who fit the inclusion criteria of the study (surgery at UCLH NHS Foundation Trust during a specified time period in 2022, no previous opioids and discharged home on opioids) in our electronic patient record system.  The computer programme will then generate a contact list with names, dates of birth (in order to allow confirmation of identity), email addresses and telephone numbers (in order to allow contact). No other personal information or information regarding any aspect of clinical care will be available or visible to researchers or anyone else involved in this research at UCLH NHS Foundation Trust at this stage. If patients cannot be contacted, or choose not to take part in the study, their names, dates of birth and contact details will be permanently deleted from the contact list. No aspect of the care they receive will be affected by this decision.

YOU CAN OPT-OUT: Please contact Dr Fausto Morell-Ducos, who is one of the researchers, by email, by telephone on 020 3448 4776, or by post at National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Cleveland Street

25 Cleveland Street, W1T 4AJ if you DO NOT want researchers to contact you and your name will be excluded from the automatic computer search used to generate the contact list. Opting out WILL NOT affect any of your future care.