Doctors call for an end to brain surgery ‘inequality’

Deep Brain Stimulation is a potentially life-changing treatment. File picture: Cleveland Clinic/PA Wire
Deep Brain Stimulation is a potentially life-changing treatment. File picture: Cleveland Clinic/PA Wire
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TOP doctors have hit out over delays to the establishment of a vital brain surgery centre as Lothian patients are forced to travel to England for treatment.

The NHS National Specialist Services Committee last year pledged support for a national centre for Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), a potentially life-changing treatment for patients with advanced Parkinson’s, dystonia or tremor disorders.

Patients in the east of Scotland have had to go to England since 2013, whereas those in the west can access DBS in Glasgow. A group of 25 top medics have now written to health secretary Shona Robison over the delay, claiming a funding dispute between health boards and the Scottish Government is blocking progress.

The letter, signed by specialists from NHS Lothian and JK Rowling’s MS clinic at Edinburgh University, said: “We have major concerns about accessibility, patient wellbeing, clinical care and sustainability.

“Travelling long distances to centres in England for pre-operative assessment, the surgical procedure itself and multiple follow-up appointments is particularly daunting for this group of patients with complex healthcare needs.

“There is also concern regarding the long-term follow of patients who have undergone DBS in England.

“Too frequently, local consultants and nurse specialists are being left to manage complex post-operative DBS cases on an ad-hoc basis, without formal access to the specialist multi-disciplinary input that these patients require.

“These concerns make consultants less likely to refer patients from the east of Scotland who might benefit from DBS, which is clearly inequitable and thus unacceptable.”

Katherine Crawford, Scotland director of Parkinson’s UK, said: “People who are considered for DBS are very unwell. They typically have very poor quality of life, and have exhausted other options. They are being failed dreadfully by the miserable lack of progress being made towards ending this postcode lottery.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The National Specialist Services Committee has approved the proposal to establish a national DBS service in Scotland and we are working very closely with NHS boards to ensure the funding is in place, as soon as possible, for a sustainable service going forward.”