Last week the national press covered the recent launch of NHS Rightcare’s Headache and Migraine Toolkit. You can download a copy of the Toolkit here.
The Times reported that “Britain’s ten million migraine sufferers will be told to keep “headache diaries” to chart their attacks while GPs will have hotlines to access specialist advice and cut down on hospital visits.”
The Toolkit acknowledges that the challenge for commissioners is “that most headaches referred to secondary care end up with a diagnosis of migraine and/or medication overuse headache, which is best managed in the community, which is easier for patients to access and cheaper for the healthcare economy”. It then goes on to identify system improvement priorities and supports these with more detailed, actionable recommendations.
One of these improvement priorities is “making appropriate referrals to secondary care”. It states, “If a healthcare professional is unsure of the necessity or appropriateness of referring a patient into secondary care for their headaches, having local initiatives in place to access a specialist (e.g. a consultant or a GPwSI), to seek advice from may help to reduce inappropriate referrals into specialist neurology outpatient clinics”.
Consultant Connect has been enabling GPs to access local neurology advice for a number of years and our experience is that it’s an effective way of helping patients get the right treatment for headaches.
Dr Nicola Giffin is a consultant neurologist in Bath and takes Consultant Connect calls from local GPs. She said “a phone call gives us the opportunity to reassure GPs and patients that a brain scan is not necessary for certain headaches and migraines. I’m able to talk GPs through the BASH [British Association for the Study of Headaches] guidance and discuss acute and preventative management strategies, as well as the treatment approach.”
Areas that are struggling for specialist neurology clinicians – we are aware of a few – may be interested in our National Consultant Network. You can read about how this service helped the 100-day challenge in NE Essex. Over 70% of calls from NE Essex GPs to national neurologists resulted in the patient avoiding a referral.
Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss hotlines to neurology specialists as part of the headache and migraine pathway, you can call us on 01865 261467 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org