NHS branded chronic failure over 900,000 patients in agony

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PATIENTS suffering chronic pain in Scotland are being failed by the NHS due to a lack of specialist services, experts warned yesterday.

As thousands of pain experts from around the world gather in Glasgow, concerns were raised about access to care for the estimated 900,000 people in Scotland suffering some form of serious pain. There were also calls from researchers speaking at the World Congress on Pain for a greater focus on the treatment of women.

A report by NHS Quality Improvement Scotland earlier this year pointed out that concern about patchy and inadequate services for people in pain has been flagged up for more than a decade. But despite this, little improvement had been made in closing the gaps in care.

Yesterday, Paulo Quadros, a member of the Scottish Government's cross-party group on chronic pain, expressed growing concern about this issue.

"Relieving chronic pain may just be the most misunderstood concept in healthcare. Unfortunately, the story of specialist pain services in Scotland is one of chronic failure. It mirrors all too often the experience of patients being fobbed off with even higher doses of painkillers and the promise of future help which never materialises."

Mr Quadros, who runs a private pain-management service, Intlife, in Glasgow, said a lack of services dealing with chronic pain was a worldwide problem. "One of the problems here in Scotland is that the service is fragmented," he said.

"People have to go all over the place to find appropriate services for them. There is not equal access for everyone."

Mr Quadros, who provides more alternative treatments for pain such as hypnotherapy, called for the NHS to explore methods of tackling pain other than medication, physiotherapy and psychological means.

Also speaking at the conference, author Hilary Mantel warned that women in particular were not being listened to when they went to their doctor suffering pain.

Another expert called for more research and guidance on treating pain in women. Anita Holdcroft, emeritus professor of anaesthesia at Imperial College London, said that men and women reacted differently to drugs like morphine.

Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish health secretary, said: "From my meetings with people who are living with chronic pain, I take the message that what counts most is having their pain recognised, and to be cared for by professionals who project a sense of empathy, and of optimism that the pain can be managed.

"Because we recognise this as extremely important to patients and their families, the Scottish Government has accepted the recommendation from NHS Quality Improvement Scotland that chronic pain should be recognised as a long-term condition in its own right."