People with chronic pain have to wait three years for injections to ease their agony, the Sunday Mail may reveal.
Thousands are suffering long delays for life changing stitches despite the Scottish government’s release last week of numbers suggesting they are meeting the goals.
Former nurse Liz Barrie, in pain so bad she has considered killing herself, accused health ministers of producing “bogus” statistics by failing to reveal the true extent of the scandal.
Official figures released last week said that out of 2,087 chronic pain sufferers who died in the three months ended March 30,
But Liz, mother of two, who has lived with excruciating back pain for years after a fall, said, “The information that is being released only applies to people waiting for a first appointment at a chronic pain clinic.
“What is being kept secret is the completely outrageous time that thousands of patients are then forced to wait for follow-up injections.
“I’m supposed to have two injections a year, but it looks like I’m waiting three years for my next one – and there are a lot more people like me.
“In the meantime, it looks like my only option will be to use highly addictive opiates instead to relieve the pain.
“I’ve thought about suicide and overdosed on pills in the past because the situation is so dire. The time has come for the Scottish Government to stop hiding this problem by publishing bogus statistics, but to face it and take action. “
Their claims were supported by NHS Lanarkshire, which admitted that patients waiting for a follow-up injection faced delays. In her case it would mean a delay of three years.
After filing a formal complaint with the NHS Lanarkshire, Liz said she was shocked to receive an email revealing the true extent of the wait.
A health department patient affairs manager wrote, “Unfortunately, there is currently a long wait for repeated steroid injections.
“As you know, there were delays in patient appointments prior to the pandemic and this was exacerbated by the suspension of the service during the Covid pandemic.
“Currently, Dr. only patients whose re-injection was due in September 2018.
“The staff inform me that your re-injection was due in July 2020 and due to the number of patients on the waiting list, there will be a delay of about 18 months.
“I acknowledge that this is not an acceptable service to our patients and I apologize very much for it. I’m so sorry I can’t give you more positive news right now. “
Liz, from East Kilbride, is in her 50s and had to quit her job for health reasons. She said, “When my son was 18 months old, I fell down the stairs holding him and damaged discs in my back and neck.
“I had several operations over several years and now I get stabbing nerve pain in my back and legs.
“The steroid injection really targets the pain area and stays in your system for a long time.
“You dramatically improve my quality of life for several months and that affects everything including mental health.
“It takes 20 minutes and it’s not a very expensive treatment.”
Earlier this year, it found that by the end of 2020, NHS clinics were seeing only two-thirds of the number of chronic pain sufferers they normally would, with some patients having to wait a year or more.
Consultations were suspended for four months at the start of the pandemic, leading to reports that some patients with problems such as nerve damage and arthritis were paying thousands of pounds to travel to private facilities in England to receive medical infusions or injections to replace theirs Relieve symptoms.
Monica Lennon MSP, co-founder of the Cross Party Group on Chronic Pain in Holyrood, said, “The human rights of people with chronic pain conditions are being ignored.
“My constituent Liz Barrie has been sent through hell and her experience is shared by thousands of patients across Scotland.
“SNP health ministers must tell the truth about waiting times for patients who need ongoing care.
“You wouldn’t expect a pet to wait over two years for a vital injection of pain relief.
“It is a shame that desperate people are forced to spend thousands of pounds on private health care and their lives are ruined for those who cannot afford it.
“Chronic pain services were neglected before the pandemic and waiting times for returnees were kept secret.
“It is time for the First Minister to step in and end this scandal once and for all.”
The leader of the Lib Dem, Alex Cole-Hamilton, meanwhile, urged the Scottish government to “show a little compassion”.
He said, “This is an absolutely tragic story. We know that one in 20 patients waiting for treatment for chronic pain now has to wait over a year. This must be the longest year of your life.
“The Scottish Government needs to show some compassion and provide the support and resources needed to help hospitals provide urgent treatment for patients like Liz.”
(Image: Sunday Post)
Scottish Conservative Shadow Health Minister Dr. Sandesh Gulhane said, “This is an appalling situation for any patient. My condolences go to Liz and thousands of other chronic pain sufferers who are in severe pain.
“The SNP ministers have allowed waiting times for people with chronic pain to get out of hand. That puts the patient in a shameful pocket, worth thousands of pounds.
“You urgently need to put in place a plan to ensure that patients like Liz can access this treatment as soon as possible.”
NHS Lanarkshire Assistant Director of Acute Services Russell Coulthard insisted that injection services be resumed.
He said, “We know it can be extremely annoying for patients waiting for treatment.
“As part of NHS Lanarkshire’s plan to safely reorganize and resume services affected by Covid-19, we plan to reintroduce injection treatment for chronic pain sufferers as we believe this is one of the best practices in line with current evidence and clinical guidelines safe practice is.
“If someone feels that they are unable to cope with their pain, the first thing they should do is contact their GP or NHS 24 at 111 if it is out of hours.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are sorry the unprecedented impact of the pandemic is causing Ms. Barrie and other patients to wait so long for injections to relieve chronic pain injections.
“Living with chronic pain can be incredibly difficult, and the boards have made further progress in resuming chronic pain services in extremely difficult circumstances over the past year.
“We will continue to work with the NHS and partners to implement the Covid-19 Recovery Framework for NHS Pain Management Services released in September 2020, and later this year we will have a public consultation on a new framework for managing chronic pain aim to improve access to medical care and achieve better health outcomes for people with chronic pain. “
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