One in 10 migraine sufferers wait more than a decade to see specialist

One in ten migraine sufferers forced to wait more than a DECADE to be treated due to ‘shocking dearth of NHS specialists’

  • Half of Brits with migraines face three-year delays, and for one in six it’s six years
  • Experts say there is just one specialist NHS doctor available per 15,000 patients
  • More than six million Britons have migraines, but painkillers often do not work 

One in ten migraine sufferers wait more than a decade for treatment due to a lack of NHS experts, research suggests.

Half of all Britons with the common problem face delays of three years, while for one in six it is at least six years.

Experts blame the problem on a ‘shocking dearth of NHS specialists’, with just one doctor available for every 15,000 patients.

Dr Katy Munro, a headache specialist at the National Migraine Centre charity, said: ‘Migraine treatment on the NHS is hugely underfunded, and because of this we have very few migraine experts across the country. 

‘We need more funding for clinics, training and research.’

More than six million people in the UK suffer with migraines. Most take painkillers or prescription drugs called triptans, which can shorten the length of attacks. 

But for many, these drugs are ineffective.

In recent years scientists have developed a range of medicines that have since received the green light from health chiefs to treat migraines. 

These include nerve blocks, an injection that inhibits pain-producing nerves in the head, as well as using Botox, which paralyses muscles and reduces the frequency of migraines.

More than six million people in the UK suffer with migraines. Most take painkillers or prescription drugs called triptans, which can shorten the length of attacks. But for many, these drugs are ineffective (file photo) 

And last year the NHS approved the first treatment specifically designed to prevent migraines – a new breed of highly effective drugs called CGRP inhibitors.

These injections are for the worst-affected patients, but the treatments can only be prescribed by a doctor who has received specialist headache training.

A survey of 1,000 migraine patients in the UK, carried out by Teva Pharmaceuticals, one of the companies that make CRGP inhibitors, laid bare the problems that many face in accessing the right treatment.

Ruth Sturmey, 30, an accountant from Cheshire, had to wait 14 years before she saw a neurologist who specialised in headaches, after developing migraines at the age of 15 following a car accident.

‘At least once a week I suffer an attack,’ she says. 

‘I get searing pain in my head and lose my vision. I have to sit in a dark room with an ice pack on my head and wait for it to pass.’

Ruth visited her GP repeatedly but was never referred to a headache specialist.

She says: ‘My GP told me to take ibuprofen. Unfortunately, they caused side effects – stomach problems.’

She began seeing a new GP three years ago ‘who was very helpful’ but said she would have to ‘jump through all the hoops’ before she could see a specialist.

Eventually, after a severe attack led to Ruth being hospitalised, she was referred to a neurologist.

She says it has been life-changing: ‘I’m getting Botox injections and I’m pain-free a lot of the month. It’s made a massive difference. 

‘It just makes me wonder why I had to endure 15 years of chronic pain to get here.’ 

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