The NHS long-term plan does not even once mention migraine but the condition causes an estimated 25 million days lost from work and school in the UK each year, writes Gus Baldwin
The results of the largest consultation ever of people affected by migraine by The Migraine Trust make for grim reading.
The Migraine Trust surveyed over 1,800 people with migraine across the UK in October and November.
The results make clear that migraine patients are poorly served by the NHS in all four nations.
Across the UK, less than a third of respondents (32 per cent) are satisfied with the care and treatment they receive with only 15 per cent believing that the NHS is able to manage migraine well.
But there are significant national differences. For example, in Wales only one in six (17 per cent) respondents are satisfied with their care.
Parents of children and young people with migraine also report that only a quarter (26 per cent) are satisfied with their care.
The most shocking statistic from our new survey is that over a quarter (28 per cent) of respondents have ended up paying to see a health professional privately about their migraine in the last five years
When it comes to diagnosing migraine, patients are also reporting serious concerns. Over half (53 per cent) waited more than a year before seeking help from their GP. Only three in 10 were diagnosed on their first visit to their GP with three in 10 (29 per cent) having to go back five or more times before they received a migraine diagnosis.
But perhaps the most shocking statistic from our new survey is that over a quarter (28 per cent) of respondents have ended up paying to see a health professional privately about their migraine in the last five years.
In the NHS long-term plan, published at the beginning of the year, cancer is mentioned 114 times.
The NHS Plan also highlights that low back and neck pain is the greatest cause of years lost to disability, with over 30 million working days lost due to musculoskeletal conditions every year in the UK. It sets out a number of new ideas to deliver much-needed change, including more physiotherapists working in primary care networks and ensuring patients have direct access to MSK First Contact Practitioners.
Guess how many times headache gets mentioned – the second greatest cause of years lived with disability globally, with migraine alone the cause of an estimated 25 million days lost from work and school in the UK each year. You guessed right, not once.
While highlighting the lack of consideration in the NHS long-term plan, it is really important to acknowledge the fantastic healthcare professionals – the consultants, GPs, nurses, pharmacists and others – who work tirelessly to support and treat migraine patients every day. They are as desperate for change as people affected by migraine are.
I’m also not going to pretend we at The Migraine Trust have instant answers or silver bullets to fix what is a complex challenge that has been generations in the making.
But we do know that the care and treatment of migraine patients in the UK must improve. Migraine is a complex brain disease that affects between 6-10 million people in the UK, ruins hundreds of thousands of lives every year, and robs far too many young people of the chance of a great life.
The only chance we have to improve care and treatment is if we all recognise the scale of the current problem and if there is a new and concerted effort by the whole migraine community, NHS and public health communities – working together – to tackle it.
If we are able to move the dial even just a fraction in the right direction over the lifetime of the NHS long-term plan we could have a hugely positive impact on people’s lives and on the productivity of the UK economy as a whole.
With this goal, we are launching a new UK-wide “State of the Migraine Nation” programme. Over the next nine months we will develop a new plan of action to start to tackle this major public health challenge. You can find out more about our programme, watch it develop, and get involved, here.