A type of sedative medication was prescribed to people according to national guidance, Cambridge County Council has said, after an external investigation raised concerns. 

The authority said there was, however, a failure in record keeping showing the required process was followed. 

The Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman found fault with the county council and Change Grow Live (CGL), the organisation responsible for providing the adult drug and alcohol treatment service. 

Following an investigation, the ombudsman said it had found that CGL had prescribed long-term medicines, benzodiazepines, against national guidance and not in line with its own prescribing policy. 

The ombudsman found that three people had been prescribed benzodiazepine medications for at least 11 years with there being no evidence of a joint client and clinician agreement for their reduction. 

Benzodiazepines are a type of sedative medication that are used in the treatment of drug dependency. 

However, there is a risk of dependency upon the medication, and therefore are strict National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines on its usage, including that it should only be prescribed for a short period of time with its reduction and termination agreed between the clinician and client. 

Due to the lack of evidence of such an agreement the ombudsman found fault with both CGL and the county council as the commissioner of the service. 

The county council said it had commissioned an independent specialist clinical pharmacist to review the ombudsman findings. 

At a meeting of the county council’s adult and health committee on October 5, Jyoti Atri, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s Director of Public Health, said the specialist found CGL had followed its own policy and NICE guidance. 

She explained that the specialist was able to see additional records that were not submitted to the ombudsman. 

She said there were conversations between the clinicians and the clients about reducing the benzodiazepine medication and said evidence of this should have been submitted to the ombudsman. 

Cllr Richard Howitt, chair of the committee, said the authority respected the ombudsman report, and said it was being responded to accordingly. 

He said: “As I am sure members will have expected, the vice chair and I have studied this carefully and have had deep conversations with the officers before this, and I commend that fact that we got an independent clinical pharmacist in to review this. 

“I am persuaded that the CGL followed both the national guidance and their own policy and that this was a failure of record keeping.” 

He added: “The three people concerned were all on this drug before they became CGL service users and they were asked and encouraged to come off the drug in a way which is good practice, the failure was writing that down. 

“I am not underestimating the seriousness of record keeping being right, but I do believe that there has been some very good practice here and I think it is right for us to notice that as well.” 

At the meeting, the committee also agreed to provide an additional funding grant of £499,190 to CGL to invest in support services for rough sleepers in Cambridge. 

Ms Atri said: “The timing of this might raise some concerns or alarm.  

“Firstly I am entirely confident that CGL have addressed all the recommendations of the ombudsman report and furthermore they are a good provider their outcomes are very good and comparatively good. 

“I am confident that they are in the best place to continue this service provision.”