NHS funds headache relieving device

Author: Ingrid Torjesen
NHS funds headache relieving device

A handheld gadget that uses low levels of electric current to disrupt pain signals to relieve the excruciating pain of cluster headaches is to be funded by NHS England through its scheme that helps to spread the use of world-leading technology across the health service.

Around 66,000 people in the UK experience cluster headache and the device holds out hope for the one in 20 who do not respond to traditional treatments such as prescription of triptans (painkillers), oxygen or anticonvulsants.

These patients could be prescribed the easy-to-use device and carry it with them so that they can use it regularly to prevent cluster headaches or when they feel one coming on. The device is placed on the neck where it stimulates the vagus nerve which can lead to a reduction of pain.

Susan Haydon, head of support services at The Migraine Trust, said: “Cluster headache is one of the most painful conditions that a person can experience. It is crucial that people who experience it receive effective treatment.”

Cluster headaches are rare, but they’re more common in men and tend to start when a person is in their 30s or 40s. The headaches are often described as a sharp, burning or piercing sensation on one side of the head, and attacks generally last between 15 minutes and three hours, and typically occur between one and eight times a day.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Innovative technologies like this could not only alleviate painful symptoms but could empower patients to claim back their ordinary daily lives.”

The device is being funded as part of a scheme to fast track specific innovations into the NHS. Dr Sam Roberts, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said: “This programme has been amazingly successful at getting new innovations to patients, with over 300,000 patients benefitting from previous innovations.”

The 15 Academic Health Science Networks across England will be responsible for accelerating uptake locally.