There is no doubt that getting NHS treatment for varicose veins is very difficult now. For a long time, access to vein treatment on the NHS has been restricted and the criteria for referral are now very strict indeed. Unless your varicose veins are causing complications such as bleeding, phlebitis, deep vein thrombosis or ulcers, it is unlikely that your GP will refer you to a specialist for advice or treatment. If you have thread veins, these are almost always regarded as cosmetic, even though we now know that in the majority of cases, thread veins are caused by superficial vein reflux.
I recently gave a lecture on “The Modern Management of Varicose Veins and Thread Veins” to a group of 45 GPs from the South West at Dillington House and 3 things struck me. Firstly, hardly any of the GPs who attended had referred a patient with a vein problem to a specialist in the previous 12 months. Secondly, the number of people going to their GP with a vein problem had fallen in the last few years. Lastly, those who attended were vey interested in the new treatments, but they knew very little about recent innovations such as Ultrasound Guided Foam Sclerotherapy.
I am in no way critical of either the NHS or the hard pressed GPs. However, I am very surprised that it appears that people are resigned to not being able to get NHS treatment for their vein problems and what is perhaps more surprising is that there is very little information available to people with varicose veins and related issues from their GPs.
I hope to have the opportunity to lecture at more GP meetings in the future to spread information about what is available locally and to raise awareness of what treatment options are appropriate now that painful stripping operations under general anaesthetic have been replaced by Foam Sclerotherapy and VNUS Closure. All of the GPs who gave feedback rated my lecture as good or excellent and there was certainly a lively question and answer session afterwards, so it seems interest in the topic is high.
I would be very interested to hear from anyone who has had difficulty getting NHS treatment, so please do share your experience.