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Doctors use pandemic as excuse not to offer effective pain relief claim campaigners


Women are undergoing “painful and distressing” diagnostic tests as doctors use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse not to offer them their choice of pain relief, HSJ has been told.

At least 70 women who have had hysteroscopies this year in English NHS hospitals said they were left in extreme pain following the procedures, with many suffering trauma for several days, according to a survey by the Campaign Against Painful Hysteroscopies group.

Some women claimed doctors used COVID-19 as an “excuse” not to offer sedation or general anaesthetic. Others said they were offered an inpatient appointment with general anaesthetic, but were also told it would be a long wait and would likely be cancelled due to covid pressures.

Women also said they were told an outpatient procedure would reduce the time spent in hospital and consequently reduce the risk of contracting covid. The only pain relief on offer was often just ibuprofen and some women said facilities like recovery rooms were unavailable.

The vast majority of the women surveyed — more than 90% — said they were traumatised for a day or longer by the pain from the procedure,

A RCOG spokeswoman said: “We are concerned to hear that women are going through painful and distressing hysteroscopy procedures and that they feel COVID-19 is being used as an excuse not to offer a choice of anaesthetic."

“The covid-19 pandemic has put incredible strain on the health services, and the risk of transmission of the virus has meant they’ve had to adapt their procedures. Whilst all women should be offered a choice of anaesthesia and treatment settings for hysteroscopic procedures, an outpatient setting avoids hospital admission and reduces the risk of exposure to the virus."

“The RCOG guidance on this is very clear — all pain relief options should be discussed with women, as well as the risks and benefits of each. Women should be given the choice of a local or general anaesthetic. If the procedure is still too painful, no matter what anaesthetic options are chosen, it must be stopped and a further discussion of pain relief options should then take place. It’s vital that women are listened to and their choice is fully supported.”

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Source: HSJ, 21 December 2020

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