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Electric Nerve Stimulator

Volume 13: debated on Thursday 26 November 1981

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asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) if he will reconsider his decision not to allow general practitioners to prescribe on the national Health Service an electric nerve stimulator to relieve pain;(2) how long electric nerve stimulators to relieve pain have been in use in the National Health Service; what tests have been done on them; and with what results.

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what have been the results of trials of nerve stimulators for the relief of pain; if they have been proved to be effective; whether they are safe; and, if so, whether they will be provided under the National Health Service through the prescription of general practitioners.

Electrical stimulators for the relief of pain have been in use in this country for a number of years and have been evaluated mainly in the course of clinical practice in hospital pain clinics. There is a variety of stimulators on the market. The Department has assisted with the development of two of them and has supported trials. All the types of stimulator known to the Department are considered to be safe in use. While their efficacy for any particular patient cannot be predicted in advance, it is estimated that they bring relief to more than half of those treated with them. Stimulators can be prescribed for National Health Service patients—subject to the local availability of funds—by hospital consultants working in pain clinics. In common with other specialised and relatively costly appliances, they are not avialable on prescription by general practitioners. We have no plans to change this.