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Highland campaigner’s ultrasound battle dealt a blow

MSP Rhoda Grant and Mary Ramsay, who suffers from essential tremor.
MSP Rhoda Grant and Mary Ramsay, who suffers from essential tremor.

A Highland woman’s campaign to bring a “game-changing” ultrasound device to Scotland was dealt a blow yesterday after it emerged that it can not be used in hospitals.

Health Secretary Shona Robison revealed that the National Institute for Healthcare Excellence (Nice) had ruled that better evidence was still needed of its effect.

But the SNP minister did raise hopes that the Scottish Government could back holding clinical trials in Dundee.

Ms Robison was speaking during a Holyrood debate secured by Highland MSP Rhoda Grant and attended by 61-year-old campaigner Mary Ramsay, from Inverness.

Ms Ramsay was born with an essential tremor and hit the headlines after having to make the 560-mile round trip to Newcastle for treatment every year.

She has been fighting to bring a £1.5million focus ultrasound device to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee, even though she would not benefit from using it.

Before yesterday’s debate, Ms Ramsay said: “This is a non-invasive way of treating it and I’ve had e-mails from a few people with tremor who have had the focus ultrasound and it has cured the tremor in the dominant arm.

“I feel there are others who could benefit from this, especially in the north and east, because there is absolutely nothing.”

Ms Grant, a Labour MSP, moved a motion in the parliament calling for support for the campaign, and said: “Distance and waiting time puts treatment out of reach for many Scottish patients.

“This treatment would be a game-changer for those who are currently suffering in silence and allow them to live their lives.”

But Ms Robison revealed during the debate that draft guidance from Nice had concluded that “the evidence of its clinical efficacy is presently too limited to recommend that it be used in practice in the NHS”.

She said this meant it “could not be considered at the current time”, but added that she was “encouraged” by Dundee University’s proposal to carry out research on the treatment and that it could “provide opportunities for patients in Scotland to participate in clinical trials”.

The health secretary said the Scottish Government “would welcome” a funding application from the university for clinical research projects which aim to evaluate the technology further.

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