Scots suffering from chronic pain are facing a two-year wait to see a specialist and “considerable improvements” are needed, a health watchdog has found.
Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) found people in the NHS Borders area had to wait between 78 weeks and 104 weeks to access specialist pain psychology services.
Across Scotland, people had to wait an average of seven-and-a-half months.
Health secretary Alex Neil said “substantial progress” had been made in treating chronic pain, but opposition parties claimed the government’s approach had been “lacklustre.”
Chronic pain affects about 18 per cent of the population, or 800,000 people in Scotland.
The report found that “chronic pain services varied considerably across the country and particularly so in relation to ease of access, type of and scope of service”. It added that “in many parts of the country there are considerable improvements to be made”.
The site for a new national centre to treat sufferers is poised to be announced soon and a specialist residential service is being set up to aid those who suffer from the condition.
At present, some 20 to 30 Scots a year have to make the gruelling journey to a specialist centre in Bath for treatment due to the absence of such a centre in Scotland.
Mr Neil added: “It’s quite clear to me that there is considerable support for a national centre of excellence to be based here in Scotland, so that patients no longer have to travel hundreds of miles to the south-west of England. I look forward to being able to announce the location of the new service as soon as possible.”
It is estimated about 100 patients a year will be referred to the new centre.
More than three-quarters of those who responded to a consultation on the issue backed the establishment of a new residential clinic north of the Border to treat sufferers from across the country.
But Labour health spokesman Neil Findlay said: “The Scottish Government’s approach to chronic pain has been lacklustre to say the least, but I do welcome the decision to go ahead with a central base for sufferers.
“We have been calling for this for over a year, as horrendous stories of people waiting as long as two years for consultations or sent down to England for treatment came to light.”
The report found that patients across Scotland waited 30 weeks on average to see a psychologist, ten weeks to see a hospital specialist and 26 weeks to see an expert in musculoskeletal conditions.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said: “This report sets out a rather worrying picture. That’s why progress on this matter cannot be delayed any longer.”
Liberal Democrat Jim Hume said the findings must serve as a “wake-up call” for the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government has already invested £1.3 million improving services and set up both a national steering group for chronic pain and a support group to help share best practice.