Headache affects nine in 10 people at some time and there are at least 6.7 million migraine sufferers in England alone. In 2012-13 there were more than 19,000 emergency admissions for migraine and headache disorders. This is a 12 % increase on the previous year. Yet the ratio of neurologists to population is up to 10 times lower than elsewhere in Europe. Now an influential group of MPs and peers has called for urgent reforms. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Primary Headache Disorders (APPGPHD) is a cross party group who have a particular interest in primary headache disorders. The aim of the APPG is to highlight and raise awareness amongst parliamentarians of the key issues affecting sufferers of primary headache disorders and their loved ones as well as health professionals working in the field.
APPGPHD is demanding more headache training for GPs, an increase in the 37 specialist clinics currently available, plus more trained headache nurses than the mere 11 we have so far.
The recommendations, sought for the NHS in England, would ease ¬pressure on hospitals’ emergency admissions and neurology units.
The changes would deliver timely and consistent treatment nearer patients’ homes – fewer than 50 per cent of migraine sufferers consult a doctor and the condition remains undiagnosed and under-treated in at least half of all cases.
Current headache medical guidance for GPs amounts to just four hours, yet it leads to 20 million days missed from jobs and schools. Jim Fitzpatrick, the MP who chairs the panel, said:
“There are large gains to be made by treating headache appropriately for the patient, the NHS, the economy and wider society. “We have a significant way to go before the provision of services and support is sufficient to address the burden of primary headache disorders across England.”
The inquiry heard how headache disorders affected sufferers’ family and social lives and caused low self-esteem and depression.
The group points to delayed and wrong diagnosis, with suicides in rare circumstances.
The proposals include pay incentives for GPs to enhance diagnosis and treatment.
The report also calls for NHS England to lead a targeted public information campaign to raise understanding and awareness of headache disorders.
Neurology professor Peter Goadsby, at London’s Kings College, told the inquiry:
“Repeat GP visits represent a waste of resources. An opportunity exists for GPs with a special interest to remove some of the burden from routine GP practices. Employing a higher number of GPs with special interests could also reduce A&E attendance.”
Wendy Thomas, chief executive at The Migraine Trust, told the panel: “There is an uneven geographical spread of specialist headache clinics in England.
‘There are often long waiting lists to see consultants and clinics are overstretched and cannot meet the high demand of patients.’
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