Pain Concern has described as “deeply regrettable” a decision by NHS England to deprive chronic pain patients of access to two specialist treatments.
The decision means that chronic pain patients will no longer be eligible for deep brain stimulation and intrathecal drug delivery in the future. The charity has also questioned the consistency of the decision which will mean that intrathecal drug delivery will still be available to cancer patients but those with non-cancer related chronic pain will be left without the option.
Pain Concern Chair Heather Wallace said: “The decision to deny access to these potentially life-transforming treatments for people with severe persistent pain is fundamentally wrong and deeply regrettable. We are rightly proud of our universal healthcare system and to see it acting in such a short-sighted and inconsiderate way is truly saddening. Pain Concern hopes that this decision will be reconsidered as soon as possible.”
Professor of Neurosurgery at John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford Tipu Aziz said:
“This is disastrous for pain patients needing deep brain stimulation. As it stands I can treat patients from the Republic of Ireland but must turn down local patients. The burden of care is intolerable when I see these patients in clinic. I have more than eighty patients waiting for deep brain stimulation for pain. All referred as they have no other options.”
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Deep brain stimulation aims to treat chronic pain that does not respond to other treatments. It involves stimulating a precise area of the brain using an electrode. (NICE)
An intrathecal drug delivery system or ‘pump’ delivers medication directly to special areas in the space containing the spinal fluid (intrathecal space). Because of this, you need much lower doses of medication as the drug does not have to travel around the body first. This usually results in greater benefits and decreased side effects. (British Pain Society)