A group of Aberdeen doctors have warned that their attempts to take patients off potentially addictive painkilling drugs are threatened by budget cuts.
Medics at the Camphill Wellbeing Trust say the loss of a £25,000 annual cash injection from NHS Grampian means they are seeing fewer patients.
The trust, which specialises in offering holistic treatments for chronic pain, had benefited from health board cash for the last 20 years.
But the decision to cut NHS Grampian’s homeopathic services funding stream is making it more difficult for patients with chronic conditions to receive the treatments they offer.
The funding has ended despite growing concerns about people in Grampian becoming over-reliant on potentially addictive opioid pain-killers.
Recent figures suggest more than 440,000 prescriptions for opioids have been handed out to people in the north of Scotland in the past five years.
The statistics suggest the number of daily doses in Grampian have fallen, but the number of individuals receiving opioids has steadily increased from 37,304 in 2014 to 38,915 in 2018 – up 4.3%.
Dr Stefan Geider, of the trust, said the cut meant more cash had to be found from patients own pockets and money made from the organisation’s charitable enterprises.
“The impact is that we are seeing less patients with chronic pain and chronic conditions,” he said. “We will have to ask the patients to contribute more to the overall services and this is a patient group that can’t do it usually. Patients with chronic pain might be out of work or on benefits.”
The trust has around 180 patients on its list, many of whom receive treatment for painful conditions. The doctors specialise in an “integrated” approach, which aims to optimising conventional medicine use and combining it with treatments such as physiotherapy, yoga, and complementary medicine.
Camphill’s Dr Simon van Lieshout said their treatments had succeeded in enabling patients to come off potentially addictive drugs.
He added that Holyrood’s cross-party chronic pain group had expressed concern about the loss of money.
Dr van Lieshout said the trust had written to NHS Grampian to challenge the decision, but had not heard back.
A NHS Grampian spokesman said: “We have a responsibility to use NHS resources carefully and balance our priorities across the population as well as individuals and a legal responsibility to deliver services within our fixed financial budget.
“Homeopathy can be considered in this arena and we remain connected with the wider debate on its role within the NHS whilst regularly reviewing our local support for such services within NHS Grampian.”