Pop star Annie Lennox has called for chronic pain services to be restored, saying it is “indecent and inhumane” to leave people suffering during the coronavirus lockdown.
The singer said she is a “long-term chronic pain sufferer” and understands “only too well what it feels like to go through hours or days with extreme physical discomfort”.
She revealed last year how an operation more than a decade ago means she can “occasionally suffer from excruciating nerve pain, which comes in with a vengeance when I least expect”.
The former Eurythmics star issued a plea for action on her website, saying that “due to the Covid 19 lockdown situation, NHS chronic pain clinics have been closed for months with no word yet on when they will reopen”.
She added: “Unlike the barbarism of the Middle Ages – in the 21st century, it should be considered indecent and inhumane to leave people to suffer intolerable pain without their usual relief, while we actually do have the means to treat it.
“I very much hope this situation can be taken seriously and responded to as soon as possible.”
Her comments come after NHS figures showed at the end of last year there were 4,769 Scots waiting for their first appointment at a specialist chronic pain clinic – with more than a fifth of them (22.1%) having been waiting for more than 18 weeks.
Scotland’s national clinical director Jason Leitch will be questioned about the issues that have arisen during the Covid-19 outbreak when he appears before the Scottish Parliament’s cross-party group on chronic pain on Monday.
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon, who is co-convener of the group, said “thousands of people across Scotland who experience chronic pain have suffered greatly because of lockdown restrictions”.
She added: “This is a group of people who have been continually let down.
“To have the backing of a public figure like Annie Lennox is hugely welcome and will be a huge boost to those who are suffering.”
Ms Lennon said she has been contacted by sufferers who have “had to travel to England and pay privately for pain injections because they are not able to access their usual treatment”.
She added: “This isn’t acceptable. The Scottish Government need to urgently look at how we open up NHS pain clinics for those who need urgent treatment.”
Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs also welcomed the singer’s intervention on the “negative impact the lockdown has had on chronic pain patients across Scotland”.
Mr Briggs said: “For chronic pain patients, every week the lockdown continues is yet more time that they suffer unbelievable agony and distress.
“Over the last 13 years SNP ministers haven’t taken chronic pain patients seriously – ignoring their concerns and needs and failing to improve access to pain management clinics and treatments.
“It is clear we need to see SNP ministers restart services for chronic pain sufferers as soon as possible but we also need to see an acknowledgement that even before this public health emergency chronic pain patients across Scotland were being failed.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said that it was doing all it could to support people with chronic pain during the “unprecedented and challenging times”.
He added: “We have produced tailored advice and guidance to help patients self-manage their condition and access local and online support services.
“Some local health boards have also continued to offer virtual or telephone consultations to people regarding pain management. We appreciate how difficult it has been for people who have had procedures or treatments postponed due to the pandemic, including people with ongoing pain.
“We are working with the NHS and partners to consider how hospital pain management services can be resumed as quickly and as safely as possible.”