A new pathway for migraine care in Scotland

By: Kate Sanger, Head of Policy and Communications

6th November 2023

What does it cover and what does it mean for you?

A new National Headache Pathway has been launched in Scotland. In this blog we take you through what it means for you.

Headache is one of the most common reasons patients seek medical help. In primary care, 94% of consultations for headache are due to migraine.

Why is a new pathway needed?

Sadly too many people with migraine experience feeling ignored, dismissed or having to fight for the care they need. This includes struggling to get a diagnosis, long waiting times, inappropriate treatment plans and delays in accessing specialist care.

“I was told nine months ago that the migraine nurse would be in touch in a month, possibly two. I’m still waiting” – patient

Our research among patients about their experience of primary health care across the UK found:

  • Almost 4 in 10 (38%) were not offered preventive treatment for their frequent migraine attacks by their GP before being referred to see a specialist
  • More than a third (36%) were not advised to increase the dosage of a migraine preventive medication if it was not working
  • The majority (67%) were not advised about the risks of medication overuse headache by their GP

“I’m always told ‘it’s just a headache’, ‘take some tablets and it will go’” – person living with migraine

What is the New National Headache Pathway?

The new National Headache Pathway has been developed in Scotland to help improve the care that patients receive. It aims to support health professionals to better diagnose and manage headache disorders. This includes those working in primary care, such as general practice and pharmacies, and secondary care, such as neurology and emergency care.

Using the pathway

The focus of the pathway is for health professionals to support them in their roles.

It has not been designed as a guide for patients and does not cover every aspect or experience of migraine. However if you live in Scotland the documents might help you have conversations with your doctor or health care team about your migraine.

What does the National Headache Pathway cover?

The pathway is split into several sections spanning different aspects of diagnosis, treatment and care. This includes:

  • Recognising common symptoms
  • Treatment pathways, including recommended dosage, the need for patients to be informed about potential side effects and things to avoid while on medication
  • The use of scans: While most patients will not require a scan, some will. The pathway reassures that there is no evidence that imaging is more likely to reveal meaningful abnormalities in patients with primary headache compared to the general population
  • Medicine Overuse Headache: With emphasis on patient information and prevention and supporting those who need to withdraw from their medicine
  • Menstrual and Perimenopause Migraine and Migraine during pregnancy and following childbirth.

Read the National Headache Pathway in full here.

Questions about your care?

The pathway is not a full guide of every aspect of migraine care, however we hope it gives some useful insights into the pathway taken by your health care team.

If you have questions or concerns about your care, or feel unsure of how to talk to a health professional about aspects of your migraine we are here for you. You can call our Helpline on 0808 802 0066 or chat to us today >