Remote Pain Clinic Appointments In Scotland Are Leaving Patients Miserable

Chronic pain patients in Scotland are fed up with remote appointments which do little or nothing to help improve their condition. The NHS needs to reopen to those in chronic pain and move forward to a future of living with COVID19.

by Rob McDowall

It is becoming increasingly alarming and concerning to hear that while remote consultant appointments are being offered to some chronic pain patients in Scotland, many report consultants are refusing to conduct medication reviews remotely and it means those in the most awful and debilitating pain are stuck.

Living with chronic pain (especially uncontrolled or severely under medicated) is an extremely exasperating, isolating, tiresome and all consuming feat which has untold consequences on the patient and their families lives and their ability to gain enjoyment from life.  

Unless the Scottish Government are going to work quickly to ensure clinicians have the tools and confidence to conduct these reviews remotely, we are banking up a massive backlog for when winter ends and (hopefully) the pandemic comes to heel. Far too many GP's are reluctant to titrate or adjust doses of analgesia where the pain service has been involved with the patient and their current regime. GP's being the first port of call need to be encouraged to consider making adjustments between the patients presentation at surgery and  referral and resulting appointment being made for them to be reviewed at clinic. Otherwise patients are left in limbo with no or little effective treatment and little by the way of input from primary care.

Instances of suicidal ideation increase as the helplessness felt by many living with uncontrolled chronic pain increases. This helplessness is exasperated by the restrictions brought in to keep patients save from COVID19 and the resulting reduction or scaling back of hospital services.  I'd call on Nicola Sturgeon, Jeane Freeman and Joe Fitzpatrick to urgently look at how clinicians are supported to conduct these essential medication reviews remotely during the pandemic and how those in chronic pain are too often being failed in primary care.

There is an understandable desire to keep patients as safe as possible but failing to tackle these points risks the long term health and mental wellbeing of chronic pain patients who are already isolated by virtue of their condition(s) and their pain journey. I do hope Monica Lennon MSP and Miles Briggs MSP would echo these calls and urge the government to address this as a matter of urgency.