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Hendon & Finchley Times
August 14, 2003

The former chairwoman of patient watchdog Barnet Community Health Council (CHC) is calling for tighter monitoring of people who are pre­scribed tranquillisers for anxiety and depression.

Elizabeth Manero said the NHS was ignoring the huge number of people across the country who are hooked on the group of tranquillisers known as benzodiazepines.

Ms Manero is now chairwoman of London Health Link, the umbrella organisation for the capital's 29 CHCs, which has produced a report into the experiences of patients who have been prescribed the drugs by GPs.

She said: "We would like to see an assessment of the types of services people who have become dependent need, along with proper monitoring of the drugs.

"We would also like to see compul­sory guidance to the NHS that, on no account, should anybody be prescribed the drugs for any longer than four weeks, full stop."

For 15 years, the Department of Health has recommended the drugs be prescribed for a maximum of four weeks, but many patients report longer use. Benzodiazepines are only available on prescription but can be ordered over the internet.

There are currently no NHS guide­lines on withdrawing patients from long-term use.

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