The following e-letter by Marion Brown was published in the British Journal of General Practice on the 4th April 2019:
As last month, Roger Jones’ April 2019 Editor’s briefing has given cause to revisit, again, my response to his ‘Do no harm’ Editor’s briefing two years ago.
The challenge of learning from ‘medically unexplained symptoms’ is surely urgent. I and others have been flagging this up and have repeatedly been patronised and ignored.
There is a ‘medical’ explanation for many ‘unexplained’ symptoms: medicine. However, doctors are being actively trained to disbelieve patients’ experiences and to assume ‘unknown aetiology’ and/or ‘psychosomatic’ causes.
‘The Patient Voice: an analysis of personal accounts of prescribed drug dependence and withdrawal submitted to petitions in Scotland and Wales”was published October 2018. The aetiology of burgeoning ‘medically unexplained’ symptoms can be clearly seen in the published patient testimony collated in this report. The systems analysis ‘Lean thinking’ framework identifies clear ‘failure points’. These common failures are resulting in consequences where patients’ health is being (presumably unintentionally) worsened by prescribed medicines, and over the longer term. “For some of the responders all consultations, no matter what the problem, are now being seen through the root cause in anxiety/depression because of their history with these medications, sometimes when that wasn’t even the reason for being prescribed the drug in the first place”.
Clearly this is ‘unwanted’, difficult and uncomfortable territory for prescribers. Patients are courageously trying to raise the alarm and are being silenced.
Together with patients themselves, I and others are researching and sharing what people have learned from their/our own experiences. My own professional psychotherapy body, Human Givens Institute, has been publishing our findings . My ‘Patient Journey’ infographic, linked within the article, summarises the pattern of what we are seeing. Repeatedly.
The challenge of self-harm and suicidality in young people may also be exacerbated by medication – another medical ‘no-go’ area, despite ample evidence that there are significant links. Instead attention is being diverted to ‘social media’ factors.
The medical profession apparently obscuring and denying these very serious prescribed harm issues is not OK – and the newly released antidepressant prescribing figures for England are deeply alarming (6).
Courageous leadership is sorely needed.