Scots back pain patients sent to England for treatment

Nurse rubbing woman's back
Image caption Figures showed 21 Scots patients were referred for treatment in Bath

The NHS in Scotland spent more than £200,000 sending patients with chronic back pain for treatment in England, it has emerged.

Figures obtained by Labour MSP Jackie Baillie revealed 21 Scots were treated at a centre in Bath, near Bristol, in the first six months of 2010-11.

She said it was concerning patients could not be treated closer to home.

The Scottish government said the numbers being sent south were less now than under previous administrations.

The figures were obtained by Labour's health spokeswoman in response to a written question at the Scottish Parliament.

They showed that eight of Scotland's 14 health boards sent patients suffering with chronic pain for treatment at the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath at a cost of £206,685.

They also showed that 23 patients were sent to Bath in 2008-09 and 18 in 2009-10, bringing the total cost to more than £620,000.

'Pain management'

Ms Bailie said: "Forcing patients who are already suffering from painful conditions to endure long journeys away from friends and family to receive treatment should be avoided if at all possible.

"These figures show that it is also very expensive.

"As a matter of urgency, the health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, must look at what can be done to provide patients with appropriate care closer to home."

In response, Ms Sturgeon said: "The Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, in Bath, is a highly specialised residential pain management facility.

"Scottish patients are referred there if their clinician believes it would be beneficial for their condition.

"However, we have been looking at the issue of sending people to England for treatment as part of the integrated service model for chronic pain that we've been developing.

"We are exploring a range of issues, including whether appropriate management earlier in the treatment journey might remove the need for such referrals, and whether there is a role for a residential pain management facility as part of the overall service provision in Scotland."

The Scottish government said the number of people sent for treatment at Bath had fallen since a high of 34 under the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive.

Murdo Fraser, the Conservative's spokesman for health and wellbeing, said: "If the appropriate treatment is not available closer to home via our NHS then we have to look at working in tandem with independent providers to utilise these services.

"Yet the SNP government refuses to embrace all the options, instead preferring outdated dogma.

"Until they change this approach, we will make no progress and continue to spend money that could go on providing more frontline NHS staff."

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