NHS board apologises after just 6% of patients with chronic pain seen in time
A health board has apologised after the latest figures showed just 6% of patients suffering from chronic pain saw a specialist for help within the 18-week waiting time.
Liz Moore, the director for acute services at NHS Ayrshire and Arran, said the board "sincerely apologises to any patient who has had to wait longer than is acceptable for an appointment with the pain management service".
In the last three months of 2017, 235 patients had their first appointment with the pain management service at NHS Ayrshire and Arran.
Of those 14 had been waiting 18 weeks or less - the target set by the Scottish Government - with 221 people waiting longer than this.
Scottish Conervatives said that was "verging on scandalous" while Labour has called for nationwide review of waiting times for chronic pain services.
Across Scotland these specialist services saw 2,616 new patients in the period October to December last year, with less than three quarters (72.3%) seen within the 18 week target.
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said: "Life can be utterly miserable for someone living with chronic pain.
"To make them wait more than 18 weeks for an appointment is verging on scandalous, and it's hard to see what the excuse for this could be.
"The national average of 72.3 per cent is bad enough, but for one health board to be seeing just 6% of people in this time is shocking."
Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: "It is now time for a review on chronic pain waiting times.
"The standard has not been met since the government began regularly reporting performance, and there are clearly issues in certain health boards.
"Across Scotland over 7,000 patients had to wait longer than they should have to for their first appointment
"Ministers now need to ask tough questions about why this is happening.
"After a decade of SNP government, these figures are simply not good enough."
Liberal Democrat Alex Cole-Hamilton added: "The SNP Government continues to fail chronic pain patients.
"It's shocking that so many patients are waiting longer than the 18 weeks promised to receive the pain treatment they urgently need.
"In some areas just a fraction of patients are being seen within the agreed time frame. This is leaving hundreds of people in pain and uncertainty and the SNP Government is letting them down."
Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell replied, saying: "Nationally almost three quarters of patients referred to a pain clinic were seen within the 18 week standard.
"I welcome this increase in performance on the previous quarter, but we will continue to work with relevant NHS boards to improve performance.
"To support this we are also undertaking a programme of record investment and reform, backed by a health budget that will increase by almost £2 billion by the end of this parliament.
"We have also made £50 million available to all boards to help drive down waiting times this year, and we are taking a range of specific actions to address this important issue."
Meanwhile Ms Moore stated NHS Aryshire and Arran had introduced a number of measures to cut waiting times in this area.
She said: "We arranged for an associate specialist to receive training in the pain management speciality. They completed this and have started their clinical work.
"A consultant anaesthetist is also completing the pain management speciality training and is expected to begin clinical work in August 2018.
"We have introduced a patient-focussed booking system and reviewed clinic templates, which has reduced waiting times.
"In this week in March 2017 there were 512 patients waiting more than 12 weeks for their first outpatient appointment.
"Currently we have 185 patients waiting more than 12 weeks, while we accept this is not ideal, we anticipate this will continue to improve."