The use of hyperbaric oxygen chambers by people with fibromyalgia was at the heart of three written Parliamentary questions tabled by Brigg and Goole MP Andrew Percy for the attention of the Department of Health last week.
Mr Percy asked:
1. Whether the Secretary of State had plans to make hyperbaric oxygen tanks available on the NHS for fibromyalgia patients?
2. What recent steps he had taken to support patients with fibromyalgia?
3. If the Secvretary of State make an assessment of the implications for his Department's policies of the findings of clinical trials at Rice University on women diagnosed with fibromyalgia that the condition is improved by providing hyperbaric oxygen therapy; and if he will make a statement?
The answers came through from Public Health Minister, Jane Ellison MP, on 6 July.
In April 2013, NHS England produced a clinical commissioning policy specification for hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) which sets out that HBOT will only be commissioned for the following indications:
― decompression illness;
― gas embolism; and
― acute carbon monoxide.
Patients with other conditions who are seeking HBOT would need to make an Individual Funding Request (IFR). Both the HBOT specification and guidance on the IFR process can be found at the following links:
Whilst the results of the Rice University trial are interesting, larger, high quality clinical trials would be needed to demonstrate the efficacy of HBOT in treating fibromyalgia.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, some treatments can ease symptoms and support improved quality of life for patients. The treatments offered will depend on the severity of a patient's condition, but may include:
― pharmacological pain relief;
― dietary and exercise advice;
― counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy; and
― self-management programmes which aim to give patients the skills and
confidence to manage their conditions more effectively.
There are also a number of NHS trusts that offer specialist fibromyalgia clinics, such as the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, which patients can access on referral from the clinician responsible for their care.