NHS aims to prevent up to 16,500 hospital stays for headaches and migraines

By Tom Horton, PA

NHS England has announced plans aimed at preventing up to 16,500 emergency hospital admissions for headaches and migraines each year.

Greater use of headache diaries, where patients record their own symptoms, and faster access to specialist advice for family doctors are among the measures targeting a reduction in pressure on frontline services.

The number of emergency hospital admissions for headaches and migraines has increased by 14% over the last five years from 95,548 in 2014/15 to 108,711 in 2018/19, NHS England said.

Hugh McCaughley, NHS national director for improvement, said: “Headaches and migraines can place a heavy burden on sufferers, the NHS and the wider economy, but we know that there are local health services which are doing really well in meeting people’s needs early in the community, and therefore reducing the need for hospital care.”

Around 10 million people aged between 16 and 69 suffer from migraines, which are classified as a disabling illness.

The health service spends around £150 million each year treating migraines and £250 million on headaches.

The cost to the wider economy from migraines is estimated to be around £4.4 billion due to three million migraine-related sick days, according to NHS England.

Under the new plans, local health groups will be issued with a toolkit to help them understand the scale of the problem in their area and assist with the roll-out measures that aim to cut costs and free up staff time.

It will also help ensure patients are given advice on how to self-manage their condition and assist with the planning of long-term care and treatment.