A woman has called on local health bosses to justify the decision to withdraw a pain treatment she says helps her live a normal life.
Jennifer Grimes, 37, says she has been forced to ask her 83-year-old dad to drive her to Dunfermline every three weeks for private laser acupuncture for an uncommon pain condition after NHS Tayside’s Specialist Pain Service withdrew the treatment at Ninewells.
The Craigie resident says the treatment had been highly effective at allaying the symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome – a condition causing her persistent and debilitating pain in her knee, ankle and wrist.
While its cause is poorly understood, Jennifer says the treatment had enabled her to live and work normally.
However, NHS Tayside wrote to her in 2017 to tell her the treatment was being discontinued because it wasn’t included in a nationwide list of approved treatments known as SIGN (Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network) 136.
The letter, sent on June 13, said: “Acupuncture is not considered a treatment to be offered by a Specialist Pain Service. We continue to work to develop pathways to support patients living with chronic pain.”
Jennifer believes she should still be offered the treatment as it had been effective at alleviating her pain.
She said: “I’ve had this condition since I was 15 and I had been getting laser acupuncture since 2013.
“I’ve tried other sorts of treatments – duloxetine, opiates, lidocaine infusions – but nothing has been as effective as the laser acupuncture.
“I’ve had to start doing it myself, travelling two hours to get it every three weeks.
“I’ve had to ask my dad to drive me as I can’t drive. He’s 83.
“It costs £45 each time – and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one. One of the pain nurses told me about 600 other people were affected.”
Jennifer, who works as an administrator, wears supports and walks with a stick to cope with the pain on a daily basis.
She is also seeking answers from NHS Tayside over why she wasn’t offered an “ear seed” treatment – a type of acupuncture where pressure is applied to the ear to alleviate pain elsewhere.
A freedom of information request she sent to the health board revealed that patients were offered appointments to discuss this – but the letter she received did not say this was an option.
She has since had an ear seed implanted, which she says helps with her ankle.
She added: “I was never offered it – there’s a really big inconsistency in how this has been handled.
“I sympathise with those working at the pain clinic – they are completely overwhelmed. I know it’s not their fault. But I saw a lot of people leaving saying they wanted second opinions.
“I know that this treatment was working for me and I’ve tried the other options my GP has been willing to offer me, I’ve given them a chance.
“This reads like a decision that was taken to just take things away without asking anyone about it.”
NHS Tayside has stood by its decision to withdraw the treatment.
A spokeswoman said: “Acupuncture is not considered a treatment to be offered by a Specialist Pain Service and SIGN recommends that acupuncture should be considered only for short-term relief in patients with low back pain or osteoarthritis.
“Patients were assisted by the Specialist Pain Service to access alternative supported self-management and comprehensive pain management programmes.
“Any patients who wished to continue to include acupuncture as part of their management plan were provided with a list of accredited local providers.
“We would encourage any patient who has a concern about their ongoing pain management to contact the Specialist Pain Service on 01382 425612.”