NHS Tayside has backed down in the case of a Newport pensioner told he could no longer go to the pain clinic at Ninewells Hospital.
Roderick Stewart (77) was one of several Taybridgehead patients who were shocked to be told they could no longer make the short trip to Dundee but instead would have to attend the pain clinic run by NHS Fife in Dunfermline.
In Mr Stewart’s case, it meant a round trip of up to 100 miles - a journey that would be too uncomfortable for him.
Mr Stewart, who suffers from constant nerve pain caused by diabetes and can only stand for minutes at a time, raised the issue with his local councillor, Tim Brett.
After his story appeared in the Fife Herald and St Andrews Citizen, others contacted Councillor Brett to say they were in the same position.
This week it emerged that NHS Tayside had agreed that Mr Stewart and another patient from Tayport could attend Ninewells after all - a change of heart that was given a qualified welcome by Councillor Brett.
He said that the decision had ‘not been properly made’ and that patients’ needs were not being given priority over those of the health boards in their efforts to implement the national Chronic Pain Service Model.
“I am very pleased that NHS Tayside have agreed to see Mr Roderick Stewart from Newport, who was refused access to the Ninewells service in September last year,” said Councillor Brett.
“A second patient from Tayport, who was also already attending a Ninewells clinic, has been advised that, if her GP wishes, she can also be re-referred to the Ninewells pain clinic.
“I have had a further letter from NHS Tayside setting out arrangements for pain clinic services in Tayside and Fife,” Councillor Brett continued.
“In it, they indicate that there has been discussion between the two teams responsible for these services and that it was ‘agreed’ that Fife patients should be seen at the pain clinic in Dunfermline.
“This is based on the need for a multi-disciplinary approach for patients with chronic pain but would still mean that patients from north east Fife who could more easily access the Ninewells service would have to make a 70-mile round trip to Dunfermline.”
Councillor Brett claimed that no account had been taken of the difficulties that patients from north east Fife would encounter in accessing the Dunfermline clinic.
He also noted that no account appeared to have been taken of the fact that Ninewells was built as the local hospital for north east Fife residents and that most other specialist services were available there.
“It has always been my belief that services should be built around the needs of the patient and not around the needs of those providing them,” he commented.
“ I shall be following this up with both NHS Tayside and NHS Fife as I still believe strongly that patients should be referred to any service where the GP feels that this would be of benefit to the patient.
“Whilst I can see the benefits of having a multi-disciplinary approach, I cannot see why this cannot be provided to north east Fife residents using the Ninewells service, with input from Fife services if that is required.”
In a letter to Councillor Brett, NHS Tayside chief executive Lesley McLay said that both health boards had engaged in ‘significant improvement programmes’ to their pain services in order to implement the Scottish Pain Model, which had led to difficulties for the NHS Tayside pain team to work effectively across borders. However, both boards were to have a ‘high level’ discussi ons on the issue.