Millions to Aid Smokers and the Obese, but Those in Agony Are Invisible
Byline: COMMENT Dorothy-Grace Elder
IF 130,000 people can be let down, what hope is there for the public's voice in Scotland? Chronic pain is a devouring monster which won't be tamed by cheap, gesture politics.
I remember, with anguish, the tide of heartbreaking appeals for help unleashed ten years ago after the pain debate I organised in Holyrood. Chronic pain still holds Holyrood's online record for biggest response on any subject.
Bags of mail also thudded into my office. Some letters still haunt me, like the one from a young exsoldier with spinal pain who wrote: 'Pain has ruined me. All I've ever wanted in life was a home, a family of my own and a job. These I cannot have, all due to pain. I live as a virtual prisoner, out of my mind with pain. At 2am, sitting at the end of my bed, weeping with pain, I feel so damned alone and frightened.' Sufferers have no voice. He looked to the Scottish parliament to 'fight and fight again for us, the invisible people who have no champions'. I continued the battle long after leaving Holyrood in 2003. But there are some active MSPs, currently in office, who do care.
Yet Jackie Baillie has proved a consistent champion, changing Labour policy to a commitment to creating an inpatient clinic north of the Border, saying: 'To spend over [pounds sterling]1million sending Scottish patients to Bath is shocking.' THE Tories, and one or two SNP backbenchers, also help. Surprisingly, Holyrood inspired Westminster to set up its first cross-party pain group. The Commons asked me down to advise them after the mass Scottish reaction. I blush retrospectively, remembering how I chided MPs about 'innovative' Scotland.
I truly believed this neglected cause was on its way up. So did international response - from 20 countries, even from an American warship at sea, with sailors praising Scotland for 'taking a lead'. A decade later, I'm horrified that Scots are still deprived of radical help. …