Annie Lennox has called for action over the “intolerable” suffering of chronic pain patients during lockdown.
Annie called it “indecent and inhumane to leave people to suffer”. She was referring to the continuing closure of NHS specialist pain clinics. While many patients get by on medication, some depend on regular treatment at NHS specialist clinics. These closed almost three months ago, with some staff diverted to Covid-19 duties, now lessening.
She personally suffers from “excruciating” neuralgic pain. This comes in occasional agonising bouts – but Annie highlighted the plight of other sufferers needing clinics frequently.
The international star, originally from Aberdeen, responded to patient concerns from Scotland where some patients -whose NHS treatments ran out during lockdown-were in such desperate agony that a few have been driven by relatives to England for infusions. They paid around £800 for private infusions they couldn’t afford normally and the 500 mile return journeys were “torture” for their conditions. Private as well as NHS pain clinics stopped services in Scotland. Annie wrote:
“As a long-term chronic pain sufferer, I understand only too well what it feels like to go through hours or days with extreme physical discomfort.
Without medication or clinical treatment, life becomes torturous and untenable.
In the U.K, millions of people suffer. Some rely on having regular access to pain reduction treatment, but due to the Covid 19 lockdown situation, NHS chronic pain clinics have been closed for months with no word yet on when they will re-open, which is sought urgently In Scotland in particular. Will years of complaints over waiting times and underfunding continue to be ignored?
Unlike the barbarism of the Middle Ages – in the 21st century, it should be considered indecent and inhumane to leave people to suffer intolerable pain without their usual relief, while we actually do have the means to treat it.
I very much hope this situation can be taken seriously and responded to as soon as possible.”
Annie Lennox OBE.
Normally, returning patients visit Scotland’s NHS pain clinics over 40,000 times a year, (Source: FOI) Some need treatments every five to six weeks, others require different help and specialist advice.
Injections are currently barred if they contain steroids which could be harmful if a patient later develops Covid-19.
But infusion drips of the pain drug Lignocaine are free of steroids -and patients have appealed for these to be resumed urgently and a date set for re-opening.
Other types of infusions have happened in Scotland during lockdown – but not for chronic pain. Apart from around 40,000 visits by return patients to NHS Scottish pain clinics, there are over 20,000 new chronic pain patients in Scotland annually. That’s a fraction of the 800,000 suffering (40,000 visits does not mean entirely 40,000 patients as some need treatment several times)
Annie sent support to the Scottish Parliament’s patient-run Cross-Party Group on chronic and two charities also run by patients, Affa Sair in Moray and Grampian and Action on Pain UK. All three groups have been outspoken critics of long-term lack of help for pain sufferers and thanked Annie for her “compassionate and uplifting outreach to patients” whose suffering was often overlooked. (Note: “Affa Sair” is North East Scotland dialect for “awfully sore” . NE is Annie’s home area)
Christopher Bridgeford, the voluntary chair of the 550 patient charity Affa Sair said “I very much welcome and applaud Annie’s statement. It has been an agonising situation since the decision to halt pain clinic treatments for those who depend on them. Medication doesn’t work for all. For some, only those clinic visits tackle really terrible levels of pain through infusions. Many find it very hard to speak about their plight. For this international star and much respected activist to make her struggles with pain so public speaks of a very courageous and inspiring lady. I hope her words encourage the Scottish Government to ensure that full Pain Clinic services are restarted soon and staffing given proper funding in future”
Ian Semmons, patient chair of Action on Pain UK said: “Annie has given a strong and powerful message that cannot be ignored. She has spoken for those who suffer too much in silence. Chronic pain patients have for years been overlooked by Governments everywhere.
But Action on Pain has long been very worried about Scotland and the shortage of funding for NHS chronic pain clinics and their hard-worked staff. They are funded like a Cinderella service when they can even save some from suicide. Waiting times for new patients have soared from almost 90% being seen on time nine years ago to only 60.5% in 2019, before the virus emergency. The Scottish Government has dealt with chronic pain by setting up ineffective talking shops, meeting behind closed doors, not open to the public. Urgent action is needed”
Last year, Annie wrote of suffering excruciating pain for over ten years. It comes in bouts – not involved with regular treatment.
“Over a decade ago, I had to have a back operation and a lot of things changed after that. Long story.. but I occasionally suffer from excruciating nerve pain, which comes in with a vengeance when I least expect it. It has given me an insight as to what others have to deal with.. far more or less than this. My gratitude when it dies down is immeasurable.”