From the Telegraph
Tens of thousands with chronic back pain will be forced to live in agony after a decision to slash the number of painkilling injections issued on the NHS, doctors have warned.
The Government’s drug rationing watchdog says “therapeutic” injections of steroids, such as cortisone, which are used to reduce inflammation, should no longer be offered to patients suffering from persistent lower back pain when the cause is not known.
Instead the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is ordering doctors to offer patients remedies like acupuncture and osteopathy.
Specialists fear tens of thousands of people, mainly the elderly and frail, will be left to suffer excruciating levels of pain or pay as much as £500 each for private treatment.
The NHS currently issues more than 60,000 treatments of steroid injections every year. NICE said in its guidance it wants to cut this to just 3,000 treatments a year, a move which would save the NHS £33 million.
But the British Pain Society, which represents specialists in the field, has written to NICE calling for the guidelines to be withdrawn after its members warned that they would lead to many patients having to undergo unnecessary and high-risk spinal surgery.
Dr Christopher Wells, a leading specialist in pain relief medicine and the founder of the NHS’ first specialist pain clinic, said it was “entirely unacceptable” that conventional treatments used by thousands of patients would be stopped.
“I don’t mind whether some people want to try acupuncture, or osteopathy. What concerns me is that to pay for these treatments, specialist clinics which offer vital services are going to be forced to close, leaving patients in significant pain, with nowhere to go.”
The NICE guidelines admit that evidence was limited for many back pain treatments, including those it recommended. Where scientific proof was lacking, advice was instead taken from its expert group. But specialists are furious that while the group included practitioners of alternative therapies, there was no one with expertise in conventional pain relief medicine to argue against a decision to significantly restrict its use.
But that’s inherent when decisions like this are made politically. Some groups get represented. Others get under- or over-represented. Consumers don’t get represented. Even if there are “consumer respresentatives,” they are ideological activists, not real consumers.
Iris Watkins, 80 from Appleton, in Cheshire said her life had been “transformed” by the use of therapeutic injections every two years. The pensioner began to suffer back pain in her 70s. Four years ago, despite physiotherapy treatment and the use of medication, she had reached a stage where she could barely walk.
“It was horrendous, I was spending hours lying on the sofa, or in bed, I couldn’t spend a whole evening out. I was referred to a specialist, who decided to give me a set of injections. The difference was tremendous.”
Within days, she was able to return to her old life, gardening, caring for her husband Herbert, and enjoying social occasions.
“I just felt fabulous – almost immediately, there was not a twinge. I only had an injection every two years, but it really has transformed my life; if I couldn’t have them I would be in despair”.
But the bureaucrats and political activists don’t particularly care about people like Ms. Watkins.
Labels: government health care, Health Care, Socialized Medicine