Changes to pain services on way

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A KEY procedure which provides relief for chronic pain sufferers will lose its funding at the end of the month.

The York and North Yorkshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) is planning to end funding for spinal injections carried out by doctors at the Pain Clinic at Scarborough Hospital.

But it says the decision does not mean it is “withdrawing funding for the pain clinic” and is looking to develop “more comprehensive pain services” for the area.

Doctor Donald Jones, consultant in chronic pain at Scarborough and Birdlington Hospitals, claims around 700 patients suffering from lower back problems, nerve damage, sciatica and other crippling problems will now have to rely on medication or pay for private treatment.

He said: “What do we do with our patients if they have a chronic condition? What do you say to a patient if they are diabetic and their legs are hurting like mad and burning? What are you going to do?

“You would not stop the insulin for a diabetic because, frankly, you would be lynched if you did but the NHS feels they can get away with stopping treatment for people with chronic pain because they are not in the media’s eye.”

He claims sufferers who have a GP in the Bridlington and Wetwang areas, which falls under the NHS East Riding of Yorkshire PCT, will still be able to have treatments at Bridlington Hospital but those people whose doctors are in Scarborough, Whitby and Ryedale will not be eligible - unless a “convuluted form” is filled out and given the green light by health chiefs.

“My immediate suspicion is that the PCT wants to wear us down. If you think of the number of patients and people involved to fill in a form, it seems particularly designed to ensure we don’t do it,” he said.

And Dr Jones argues the PCT informed him at the end of May of their intentions without public meetings or consultations to discuss “such a major service change.”

Without support from the county council’s Health and Scrutiny Committe, he fears for what happens to his patients who cannot get this treatment.

“Chronic pain can have a knock-one effect. You lose your job, more reduced income, your family starts to suffer. There is a whole catalogue of problems - including suicide.”

But Dr David Geddes, Medical Director for NHS North Yorkshire and York, said: “We wish to make clear that our decision to stop routinely commissioning spinal injections for back pain does not mean we are withdrawing funding for the pain clinic.

“Pain clinics provide specialist input into pain management for a wide range of conditions. Patients with back pain benefit from a multi-disciplinary approach, and whilst spinal injections have provided some benefit for a proportion of patients, there is a need to develop more comprehensive pain services for the whole population of Scarborough.

“As stated previously, we will continue to commission spinal injections for those patients where there is greatest evidence of their benefit, but we are working with Scarborough Trust to ensure the development of the type of services that are recognised by NICE and the British Pain Society to be an essential component of a modern pain management service.”