Access to Migraine Treatment — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 20 March 2024.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Dehenna Davison Dehenna Davison Conservative, Bishop Auckland 9:30, 20 March 2024

I agree with the hon. Member. In severe cases, migraine is absolutely a disability. It ruins lives. There is a separate discussion to have with the Department for Work and Pensions—I do not want to put all the pressure on the Department of Health and Social Care—about how it addresses chronic migraine and intractable migraine when making its assessments. I thank the hon. Member for raising that really important point, which came through from a number of our survey respondents as well.

Some workplaces make adjustments, such as allowing flexible working, but there are also reports of workplaces not making suitable adjustments. One respondent said:

“There is a complete lack of understanding that chronic migraine is a disability and employers are not willing to make allowances for this condition in the way they do with other disabilities.”

Shockingly, the Migraine Trust found that 56% of migraine patients said that their workplace had not made reasonable adjustments. That is why the organisation has launched its workplace pledge this week to encourage employers to make small, often low-cost adjustments that can make a huge difference for staff with migraine. We must remember that with one in seven people living with migraine, there is a good chance that even if someone does not, at least one of their colleagues probably does.

The impact of migraine on the workplace is not just confined to individuals dealing with the stress of potentially losing a job and income; there is a wider impact on the economy too. The Work Foundation has found that migraine causes between 28 million and 43 million lost work days per year in the UK, at a cost of around £4.4 billion. When we add the cost of that absenteeism to the cost of presenteeism—showing up and putting on a brave face but not being able to function normally —the Migraine Trust estimates that the total cost is closer to £9 billion.

We often talk about the need to improve productivity here in the UK, so surely helping those living with migraine access quicker and better treatment so they are able to work and fire on all cylinders would be a great step forward. That is especially so when coupled with the fact that, according to the Journal of Health Economics and Outcomes Research, the excess fiscal costs to the Government of one person living with migraine come to £19,823. That is the cost for one person, when there are 10 million in the UK battling the illness.

Giving up work for health reasons is not a choice that anyone makes lightly. For many, as well as the financial cost, there can be a significant cost to people’s mental health. Research by the Migraine Trust found that 78% of those living with migraine said it had a negative impact on their mental health and 65% reported experiencing anxiety as a result. People are missing work, cancelling arrangements with friends, missing out on social experiences that they have been looking forward to—and paid for—and feeling like they are a burden on their family. Others may not believe them, and they may wait months if not years to see a specialist; or they have the hope of trying another preventive that might work, only to have that shatter when it is another one that does not do so, and all the while they are living with excruciating pain. They are losing friends, losing relationships and feeling like they are losing their mind.

For some people such as Mollie, the darkness takes over entirely. She said that

“deep inside, I still had that same passion for life that all people in their twenties do. I want nothing more than to go outside and live my life, but this condition has me trapped in my own living room. My pain is now so severe, it has impacted on my mental health so intensely I contemplate suicide every single day of my life and have almost succeeded at times simply because I want the physical pain to end”.

We are here today to help people such as Mollie. We have a responsibility to help them and the millions of others suffering through migraine who need a lifeline. By improving access to treatments we can give them that lifeline. I hope the Minister will agree to meet me and the two brilliant charities represented here today to discuss further how we can do just that together.