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Agony continues for East Lancashire pain-relief patients
PATIENTS with chronic pain are still being refused hospital referrals, seven months after health bosses suspended the service due to an 18-week backlog.
From January 1, the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust (ELHT) took the unprecedented step of telling GPs not to make referrals to the Chronic Pain Service for up to eight weeks.
The backlog meant some patients were waiting more than four months to access the services due to staffing shortages and an overload of cases.
Now, only ‘urgent’ cases are being referred, because of a lack of specialist consultants.
One 42-year-old woman from Accrington said she has twice been refused a referral for pain management after a car crash and her constant pain is ‘making me feel like it’s not worth living’.
She said: “I can’t stand up for more than five minutes without being in agony.
“I’ve got children to look after and a part-time job but because of this situation it’s making me depressed.
“They said there was an 18 week backlog but we’re in July now and the hospital think they’ve got away with it.”
Val Bertenshaw, director of operations at ELHT, said staff shortages meant they were unable to accommodate all of the demand for appointments.
“This was despite existing staff working extra sessions,” she said.
“We therefore agreed with local GPs that patients would be seen in order of priority.”
“The service provided by the East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust was closed to routine GP referrals thereby enabling the more urgent cases only to be treated by the trust.”
Blackburn with Darwen’s health watchdog, Coun Ron O’Keeffe, said: “My concern is that anyone suffering from severe pain should be treated urgently. There should be a limit and if a GP has tried to refer someone two or three times, they should get that service.”
A new holistic approach to pain relief has been proposed.
Dr Ian Whyte, GP and Ribblesdale Locality Lead for East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We have involved patient groups in the planning process and they are all very supportive of the new model.”
Russ McLean, of the ELMS Patient Voice Group, said: “I have recently had sight of the proposed new model for Chronic Pain Services and I shall be working very closely with Healthcare agencies to ensure that it provides the best outcomes for those patients who have chronic long-term pain conditions.”