The NHS National Lyme Disease Referral clinic that has been open for just 6 months has closed. We had heard reports from patients of the clinic that the service was going to be discontinued in its present form from February 2014 onwards. In late February we asked Dr Dryden what was happening to the present clinic, if the funding had been pulled and what would happen to the current patients. Dr. Dryden replied with –
“Funding has not been pulled as there was never any funding. Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust has been incredibly supportive in allowing hosting of the clinic which we set up as a new development in record time last year. Please write to the CEO and thank her. We have seen many patients and I believe the clinic has been very successful and I will continue to help all Lyme patients as much as I am able. The PHE has supported the clinic with diagnostic facilities. A final home for the clinic has not been negotiated neither has NHS funding been identified. “
Dr Matthew Dryden
It became increasingly apparent from patients as time went by, that there was going to be nothing put in place for the clinic’s patients before any new clinic could be set up elsewhere. There has been plenty of rumour and speculation but the facts are thin on the ground about the possibility of a new NHS Lyme disease specialist service and whether there is even going to be one.
On 1st May Public Health England released a statement officially stating that the clinic was no longer taking patient referrals as of 1st May, but from patient reports it seems it’s been winding down for some time now. PHE’s statement does keep the door open for future Lyme disease clinics by saying –
PHE supports the concept of specialist clinics for the investigation and treatment of complicated infectious diseases and persistent symptoms attributed to them, and several of these clinics are provided by the NHS already at major centres.
However, as Dr Dryden repeatedly points out, the sticking point is funding. Hampshire Hospital Trust was hosting the clinic and footing the bill for patients coming from across the UK. A new clinic will have to negotiate funding as well as cross regional referrals; something else patients have reported they had difficulty with.
The door is now open for a new national clinic and hopefully lessons will have been learned from the short time that the Winchester clinic was operating. As patients, we also hope that knowledge and experience have been gained in the diagnosing and treatment of tick borne diseases and that PHE can now build on this to provide UK patients with a service that is so desperately needed.