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Pain Concern questions NHS England decision to stop funding pain treatments

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)