Portsmouth family worried dementia mum is one of hundreds across south 'zombified' with antipsychotic drugs

Joyce Foulds pictured last year
Joyce Foulds pictured last year
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THEY have ‘zombified’ our mum.

Those are the words of Martin Foulds who is is concerned his mum Joyce, from North End, is one of hundreds of dementia patients being prescribed antipsychotic drugs without being diagnosed with psychosis.

Joyce Foulds in July 2017

Joyce Foulds in July 2017

Joyce Foulds has spent more than seven years in care after her husband Gordon struggled to deal with her anxiety and a doctor’s diagnosis of dementia. 

But Martin says his 81-year-old mother has been ‘chemically coshed’ – having been given what he feels is unnecessary sedation with chemicals or medication.

The 51-year-old said: ‘She is like a zombie. She is being pumped full of drugs and it leaves her “zombified” and numb. It has been awful to see her go downhill so quickly.’

It comes as figures from NHS Digital show high rates of antipsychotic drugs being prescribed to hundreds of people with dementia in Portsmouth, Fareham, Gosport and South East Hampshire including Havant and Waterlooville.

Joyce Foulds at St James Hospital in 2015

Joyce Foulds at St James Hospital in 2015

South East Hampshire CCG had one of the highest rates nationally with 384 of the 2,479 dementia patients in the area being prescribed antipsychotics in the six weeks before the end of June this year – a prescribing rate of 15 per cent. The national average is nine per cent.

At least 308 of those prescribed the drugs had not been diagnosed with psychosis.

Dr Alastair Bateman, the prescribing lead for NHS South Eastern Hampshire CCG, said: ‘We are committed to ensuring that patients with dementia receive the most appropriate care, so these figures are a concern to us.  We have a dedicated team of pharmacists who have been working with GP practices to undertake comprehensive reviews of patients with dementia taking anti-psychotics to check whether their prescription is appropriate and to consider stopping where possible and desirable.’

In the last two years, the CCG has employed pharmacists to work with care homes to review patients’ medication and the use of anti-psychotics is part of their remit.

Dr Bateman added: ‘As a result of these actions the percentage of patients taking anti-psychotics has reduced but because there are now unfortunately more patients diagnosed with dementia than before the number of patients taking anti-psychotics has increased in SEH in the last year.

‘This reduction in the percentage numbers is a step in the right direction. But this is very much an ongoing area of work for us, and these figures emphasise the need for our efforts to continue.’

All other CCGs from the area also had above average prescribing rates.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has said that the ‘vast majority’ of dementia sufferers are unlikely to need antipsychotic medication, which is often used to sedate and calm agitated patients.

Martin said: ‘My mum was a lovely woman and although her anxiety meant she had to go into care, she never had half the problems she has now.

‘She now suffers with Tardive dyskinesia which is lip smacking and comes from prolonged use of antipsychotics. She struggles to walk and can’t hold a conversation. Even if she has dementia the cocktail of drugs she is on is making her worse.

‘Mum came home last year for her birthday for one night and we were given a bag full to the brim of medication just for one night. It is absolutely ridiculous.’ 

Joyce’s husband Gordon, 84, added: ‘What is happening is awful. My wife is a completely different person.’

NHS England said that progress is being made on curbing the use of antipsychotic drugs.

A spokesperson said: ‘The NHS Long Term Plan commits to going even further in improving care, including rolling out support from GPs, pharmacists and other health staff to review prescriptions for people in care homes.’