Highlands and Islands Labour MSP, David Stewart, continues to push for improved waiting times at NHS Highland’s chronic pain clinic after a reply from Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman.
The MSP, who is also Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, was told recently that there were very long waiting times for first appointments in the Highlands and that in some cases there can be more than a year’s wait for follow up appointments.
After the issue was raised by constituents, he contacted NHS Highland, who acknowledged the shortage of consultants nationally, the increased demand for the service and the lengthy waiting times patients have to wait to be seen. The Chief Executive of NHS Highland also added that they are undertaking a strategic review of the service.
However, when Mr Stewart then contacted Jeane Freeman, the Scottish Government failed to answer how it was going to address the shortage of consultants, which would help reduce waiting times, while highlighting figures which the MSP believes ‘fudges’ the issue.
“Chronic pain affects every aspect of a patient’s life and often results in them being unable to work until they receive treatment,” said Mr Stewart.
“It’s therefore vital that local clinics can cope with demand within an acceptable time frame and waiting for more than a year is a terrible stress on patients and on their loved ones and families.”
He said the reply he received from the Health Secretary left him with more questions than answers.
“It says nothing about how they are going to address the shortage of consultants,” said Mr Stewart.
“Of the £850m the Government announced over a year ago for waiting times only £102m has been released for 2019/20 and only £7m of this amount is coming to NHS Highland to support all services, not just chronic pain.
Mr Stewart wants to know when the rest of the money will be released to health boards.
“£7m is a drop in the ocean compared to the £15.6m bill NHS Highland faced last year for private locum staff.
“NHS Highland advise there is an increase in demand for chronic pain services. The Scottish Government urgently needs to properly fund health boards so we get sustainable solutions that reduce waiting times for these services.” he added.
Mr Stewart raised the matter again with the Chief Executive of NHS Highland when he met him last week (Friday 8 November) and the Chief Executive confirmed that NHS Highland is looking at reconfiguration of the service in a bid to help bring down waiting times.
David Stewart said “A constituent, who has MS, has told me that she has been continually pushing the issue of chronic pain for approximately 10 years and access to the chronic pain service has never met the needs of the patients however she says that once you are seen, the service is excellent.
The constituent said “All I can say is that the current situation regarding access to the service is completely unacceptable. The idea of a year in severe pain is horrific. MS doesn’t go away, it is life long, and for many patients it causes horrendous pain. I am also a carer for my 2 disabled daughters and chronic pain does nothing to help stress levels! We need access to the service now, not in a year!”
Mr Stewart has also tabled a number of Parliamentary Questions to ask the Scottish Government what it is doing to help lower waiting times for NHS Highland’s chronic pain clinic.