Mum 'so frightened' after being told about medication shortage

A mum says she has been left "frightened, anxious and stressed" after her life was thrown into crisis by a national shortage of mental health medication.

Dee Stafford, from Toxteth, struggled with her mental health from an early age, and she was plagued by self harm and suicidal thoughts. After finally being diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder following a nervous breakdown in 2020, she was prescribed Quetiapine, a daily medication used to prevent mania and depression, which she says "changed her life".

Now the mum-of-one fears her life will once again spiral into darkness as NHS stocks of Quetiapine have run dry, with the shortage expected to last until the end of next month - or possibly even longer.

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Dee, 40, said: "Quetiapine improved my life massively. Before, I couldn't even ring my GP without breaking down in tears. I couldn't even talk to someone without getting so upset I couldn't carry on. After getting the medication I went to therapy for a year and was able to speak about my trauma. It changed my life.

"I am upset because I was in such a dark place before. I have scars all over my body from years of self harm, and this helped me stop that. I don't want to go back there. I don't want to go back there. I don't want to go back to that black pit I fought so hard to get out of."

Britain was hit by a shortage Quetiapine this month, according to a statement from NHS Cumbria Tyne and Wear. They said: "There is a national shortage of some forms of Quetiapine until at least the end of August 2024. In the NHS, we are doing everything we can to support patients until this problem is resolved but unfortunately it is outside our control."

Dee, a civil servant, learned of the national shortage last week, when her repeat prescription was not delivered to her house as usual. In a panic, she rang her GP, who told her the bad news and recommended she take her prescription to various pharmacies around Liverpool on the chance one of them might have the medication in stock.

She said: "I need this medication to function as a parent, as an employee, and there's no help. Nobody is talking about it. How can there be a shortage of an anti-psychotic drug? I'm really anxious and stressed about it.

"I have enough left for today and tomorrow. If I stop taking it, I will go into withdrawal. It's like coming off any drug. I will get nausea, diarrhoea, dizziness, vomiting. I've been on a high dose for a number of years and I don't know what to do.

"I'm so worried because I don't want to go back to that like I had prior to starting this medication. I was off sick from work, I couldn't be a good mum. I'm just so frightened. And that's just me. I'm just one person. What about other people? It's a mental health medication and the people on it are so vulnerable, and we're just being left."

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: "The DHSC aware of supply issues affecting quetiapine 150mg, 200mg and 300mg tablets.

"We have issued advice for healthcare professionals on how to manage patients whilst there is a disruption to supply, and about the alternative treatments that are available.

"If patients are having issues obtaining supplies they should obtain further advice from their pharmacist and may need to speak with their GP who may consider prescribing an alternative treatment."

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