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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 05:41 GMT 06:41 UK
Headache sufferer's funding plea
Picture of Valerie Hobbs
Valerie Hobbs suffers two or three attacks a day
A woman who suffers from a chronic condition has said she may move to England after being refused funding in Wales for pioneering surgery.

Valerie Hobbs, from Pembrokeshire, suffers from cluster headaches - a condition that strikes nerves in the brain, causing extreme pain.

Health Commission Wales has refused to provide funding for new treatment.

In a statement, the health body said it "cannot fund treatment which is at an experimental stage".

No known cure

Cluster headaches cause extreme pain on one side of the head and face and although attacks only last a short time, they can happen several times a day.

There is no known cure, but a new treatment has been developed by a team of neurologists at University College, London.

It has affected every area of my life and changed it great deal
Valerie Hobbs

It involves connecting a nerve in the brain to a battery pack, that can send electrical impulses to quell the pain.

Mrs Hobbs, from Sageston, near Tenby, applied to become a patient, but her attempt to gain funding from the NHS in Wales for the treatment was recently turned down.

She said she is preparing to appeal, but if it fails she and her husband Ron may remortgage to pay for the operation, or move to England where funding applications have been successful.

Mrs Hobbs, who suffers attacks two or three times a day, said the condition affected her quality of life.

National Hospital for Neurology, London
Mrs Hobbs applied for pioneering treatment in London

She added: "It means I've had to give up my job.

"It's disrupted family life a great deal - I never know when an attack is going to start.

"It has affected every area of my life and changed it great deal."

Around 300,000 people in the UK suffer from cluster headaches but just 15 patients have so far received the new treatment.

Mrs Hobbs claims the cost of around 15,000 would be no more than the amount already spent to provide her with pain relief in the form of injections.

She added: "It seems unfair that (treatment) comes down to where you live - I'm angry, hurt and upset."

Her husband, Ron, said: "I can't do anything about it - that's what annoys me.

"The people who could do something about it have said no."

The couple's local Assembly Member, Christine Gwyther, said she was concerned that the first patient in Wales to apply for funding for the new treatment had been refused.

'Experimental stage'

She added: "I know that other patients with very similar conditions to my constituent are being treated in England and surely we should be expecting the same level of treatment in Wales."

In a statement, Health Commission Wales said it was unable to fund the treatment.

It added: "Health Commission Wales, in common with the NHS as whole, cannot fund treatment which is at an experimental stage.

"This treatment for cluster headaches is at an early stage and has not been part of a clinical trial as yet.

"The NHS has a duty to fund treatments which have been proven to succeed and are proven to be safe and effective."




SEE ALSO:
Nasal surgery hope for migraine
09 Jul 05 |  Health
Headache test online
05 Sep 00 |  Health
Headache's secrets revealed
29 Jun 99 |  Health


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