Hundreds of patients with chronic pain waiting a year for first NHS appointment
NHS clinics were still seeing just two thirds of the number of chronic pain patients they normally would by the end of last year, with some patients having waited a year or more.
In Ayrshire and Arran, 94 of the 112 chronic pain patients seen between October and December – equivalent to nearly 84% – had been on the waiting list for their first appointment for 52 weeks or longer.
Only nine were seen within the 18-week target.
This was by far the worst performance for any health board in Scotland.
Pain relief clinics across NHS Scotland were paused for four months at the beginning 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 for medical infusions or injections to ease their symptoms.
Across Scotland as a whole, the total number of patients seen at a chronic pain clinic between October and December last year was 2,108. 33% lower than during the same quarter in 2019, but up from 1,397 between July and September.
By the end of 2020, there were also 3,334 people still on chronic pain waiting lists. Of whom 233 had been waiting 52 weeks or longer for their first appointment.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Donald Cameron said. “While the picture for chronic pain patients is slowly improving, there are still far too many who are having to wait in pain for vital treatment.
“We’ve seen before that patients have had to travel down south for procedures, which is unacceptable.”
Public Health Minister Mairi Gougeon welcomed the evidence that more patients are now being seen in pain clinics as the NHS remobilises.
“However, we know that there is need for improvement and this year we will publish a new Framework for chronic pain service delivery which is intended to improve access to care for people with chronic pain and deliver better health outcomes.”