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Pain of the system.

Byline: BY MARTIN SHIPTON CHIEF REPORTER

JUST who is running the NHS in Wales?

Today we expose a major funding scandal that forces hundreds of Welsh patients to suffer agonising pain needlessly.

And yet Assembly Health Minister Jane Hutt claims one of the unfortunate patients affected is receiving clinical care that is "appropriate" - a statement with which the doctor responsible for his treatment passionately disagrees.

The funding crisis affecting the Pain Clinic at Cardiff's University Hospital of Wales came to light when former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies was contacted by his constituent Peter Ash.

Mr Ash, 52, suffered a brain haemorrhage in 1990, since when he has been unable to work.

The haemorrhage affected his brain's ability to control pain and he constantly has it on the left side of his body. He needs a variety of treatments to help him cope.

Since October 1995 Mr Ash, who lives at Ystrad Mynach near Caerphilly, has been attending the Pain Clinic in Cardiff, where about every six months he has been getting a pain-killing epidural injection.

Now, because of the funding crisis at the Clinic, he has been told he can only have the injection once a year.

Mr Ash's wife Linda said: "The injections improve Peter's quality of life and enable him to do that much more.

"He can't walk very far, but after an injection he's able to get as far as our local library on a good day. The effects of the injection last for about six months and we are both very unhappy that he won't be able to have the injections so often.

"But it's not just Peter we're concerned about. Many people use the Clinic and the shortfall in funding will cause a lot of them to suffer more."

In a letter to Ron Davies this week, Mrs Hutt discloses there is an 18-month waiting list for initial outpatient appointments at the Pain Clinic.

But she adds: "The clinical course of treatment remains appropriate to each individual patient once they have had their initial assessment."

Mrs Hutt says she has been advised that Mr Ash's clinical care "is at this time appropriate".

Mr Ash's treatment at the Pain Centre is supervised by consultant anaesthetist Dr Judith Foy Dr Foy said: "I do not agree that Mr Ash's treatment is appropriate. He should be receiving two injections a year.

"Last year I put together a business case for increased funding for the Pain Clinic.

"The Clinic treats a wide range of patients with many different conditions and more and more patients are being referred to us.

Last year we had nearly 800.

"Without extra funding we cannot see people as frequently as we would like.

"My business plan involved quite a modest additional outlay of pounds 112,000 a year, which would have allowed us to organise more sessions. At first I was hopeful of success, but then the proposal was turned down."

Ron Davies, the AM for Caerphilly, said: "I'm extremely angry at the way Mr Ash has been treated.

"It only makes matters worse when attempts are made to pretend there is no problem when in fact the issue highlights some of the grave inadequacies of the way the health service is run."

CAPTION(S):

INJECTIONS: Doctors say Peter needs more frequent treatment JANE HUTT: Says Peter's treatment is 'appropriate'
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jan 27, 2002
Words:556
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