Patient's anger over health care lottery

PUBLISHED: 11:41 02 November 2006 | UPDATED: 11:08 06 May 2010

Steven Collins – left a “hopeless drug addict”

Steven Collins – left a “hopeless drug addict”

A MAN with a rare medical condition says he has been left a hopeless drug addict by an NHS postcode lottery. Steven Collins, 43, from Letchworth GC, developed a painful illness, hemicrania continua, after a routine sinus operation in 1997. The condition

A MAN with a rare medical condition says he has been left a "hopeless drug addict" by an NHS postcode lottery.

Steven Collins, 43, from Letchworth GC, developed a painful illness, hemicrania continua, after a routine sinus operation in 1997.

The condition causes constant and severe head pain and Mr Collins was found to be intolerant to the drugs normally used to treat it.

Instead he was put on a morphine-based painkiller to which he is now addicted having taken it for nine years.

Because the body develops a tolerance to the drug, he is now on a "seriously high dose" to combat the unbearable pain.

He said: "If I don't take it effectively I'm bed ridden. I have no choice but to take it.

"I would have to be weaned off it because it's an addictive drug.

"Far from helping me they've made me into a drug addict."

In 2004, he was told by one of the world's leading experts on the condition that he needed an 'occipital nerve stimulator' - a revolutionary implant which delivers electrical impulses to the brain to switch off pain.

The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London applied for funding from Mr Collins' local primary care trust to fit the implant, but it has refused to pay, saying there is not enough evidence it is effective.

Mr Collins maintains there is evidence from all over the world to support the implant, and that the London hospital has performed over 30 of these operations with funding from primary care trusts around the country.

He said: "You can get this anywhere else in the country but East and North Herts PCT won't fund it.

"It's an absolute disgrace and another example of the NHS postcode lottery.

Mr Collins is so desperate to have the implant he has taken his case to his MP Oliver Heald, and is due to meet him tomorrow (Friday).

A spokesman for East and North Herts PCT said reviews of the implant by doctors "have concluded that there is currently extremely limited evidence to support the effectiveness of this intervention.

"However the PCT understands the concern Mr Collins has about his condition and has liaised with the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery to encourage a long-term clinical study into this treatment.

"The PCT considers that it has acted responsibly in this case, by reviewing the available literature which does not demonstrate that the treatment is clinically effective and by keeping Mr Collins fully informed of our decisions at every stage of the process.

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