MPs debate migraine in Parliament after sixty years and call for better migraine care

MPs joined the debate, with several sharing personal experiences of migraine, how it had impacted loved ones, accounts they had received from some of the 1 in 7 of their constituents who live with it

25th March 2024

On Wednesday March 20th for the first time in decades, MPs held a dedicated debate on the often-debilitating impact migraine has on people and about the support they need, prompting the Government to look into how access to life-changing calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibodies (CGRP mAbs) medications might be simplified in primary care.

MPs debating migraine in parliament

The Migraine Trust and our patient representatives have been calling for politicians to address migraine and we worked to support the debate secured by Dehenna Davison MP, who last year resigned as a minister due to her own battle with “life-ruining” chronic migraine. She opened the session noting that in one week, 500 people living with migraine had responded to a survey about their experiences for the debate, and said:

“It is 60 years since the last parliamentary debate. Those suffering the crippling effects of migraine alone might feel that, even now after all that time, little progress has been made, but I am here to be optimistic. New treatments, such as CGRP blockers, are proving highly effective for many migraine patients, helping to reduce the severity, longevity and frequency of migraine attacks. For many taking CGRP blockers, they are often called a lifeline. One patient responded to our survey, saying that CGRP injections have ‘virtually eradicated my migraines’. Although new effective treatments are being developed, they are not easy to access through the NHS.”

Ten MPs joined the debate, with several sharing personal experiences of migraine

This included how it had impacted loved ones, accounts they had received from some of the 1 in 7 of their constituents who live with it, or views on access to support in different nations of the UK. Others who couldn’t attend submitted testimony to be read on their behalf.

Wayne David MP wrote:

“I have suffered from migraine since I was a young man. It used to be extremely debilitating, but in recent years I have been able to minimise significantly the severity and frequency of attacks. There are so many different causes and triggers of migraine. For me, it is stress related. Manage my stress and I can usually manage my migraine.”

Scottish MP David Duguid shared that:

“I first experienced migraine in my early teenage years, when I regularly had to be excused from school. I remember being particularly distressed at the disorientation and confusion, as well as the extreme headache and nausea, of course. Migraines have become no less debilitating as I have grown into adulthood but they have become less frequent, and I generally know what to expect when symptoms start, and what medication to take. Like my father before me, I now watch my 12-year-old son experiencing his first migraines and the confusion it brings. As much as I can empathise with my son, I am only too aware of how little I can do to relieve his distress.”

Another MP has spoken out about her own experiences with migraine, Caroline Nokes MP, recounted what she found when she met with many others who live with it too:

“When I agreed to host an event for the Migraine Trust, I thought I understood migraine and recognised the symptoms and impacts and how sufferers endure the most horrible events in their lives. That was right up until I spoke to some of the sufferers who were there that evening. We have focused on the one in seven people—the 10,000—in each of our constituencies who suffer from migraines, but I was particularly struck by the chronic migraine sufferers who were there that evening. They are triggered endlessly by such a radical thing as light, and they were having to stand in that room with dark glasses on and with ear plugs in to avoid noise. They were telling me about the food and drink they avoided rigorously, because they could identify each individual trigger that would perhaps set off a period when they would have a migraine literally every single day for days on end. It was eye-opening for me, because I thought I understood migraine after the first attack I had when I was about 10 years old.”

Karin Smyth MP, the Shadow Health Minister, spoke for the Opposition in the debate. She called on the Government to tackle waiting lists for neurological care, noted migraine disproportionately impacts women, and acknowledged research from The Migraine Trust on how it affects people at work:

“Migraines affect people’s ability to access full employment, with 29% of those who suffer reporting that they have had to move from full time to part-time work, and a further 25% having left a job altogether. People listening to this debate who might think they are in control of their careers—maybe even at the Dispatch Box—will find it very powerful to understand that they are not alone.”

Responding for the Government, Health Minister Andrew Stephenson MP spoke about the “human cost” and economic cost of migraine, and current guidance from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) about treatments available on the NHS. He also revealed the Government will look into improving access to CGRPs and other treatments through GPs and community pharmacies:

“My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland [Dehenna Davison MP] raised the issue of CGRPs and prescribing rights in primary care. That is an interesting point. I have asked the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency to look into this matter and I will write to my hon. Friend in the coming days.
“Similarly, I will take away the point made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire [Gavin Williamson MP] about what more we can do to better utilise our local pharmacies. The Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, my right hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire [Dame Andrea Leadsom MP], is responsible for pharmacy policy. She has already overseen the roll-out of Pharmacy First, ensuring that more conditions than ever before can be addressed by pharmacists, rather than people having to wait to see a GP.”

Davison closed the debate by saying:

“My hon. Friend the Member for Kettering [Philip Hollobone MP] also raised the experience of his constituent [Lisa]. Again, it was another human story that tells the tale of chronic migraine; another human story that tells the tale of just how difficult this blooming thing can be. I am grateful to all hon. Members here today for taking part in the debate, for getting involved and for showing that there are people here in Parliament who care. To people watching at home, I say, “We are here, we hear you and we are going to do all we can to make this better.” I will keep nagging the Minister until we really see improvements in migraine care.”

Rob Music, chief executive of The Migraine Trust, said: “This debate was an important opportunity for people living with migraine to get their stories heard and to highlight the serious impact migraine has on so many. We saw parliamentarians talk about opportunities to improve care, such as greater access to life-changing medications, increasing the availability of specialists, and strengthening care in the community through pharmacies and GPs.

We need the Government and all parties to understand what needs to be done to challenge stigma and improve access to care. It was encouraging to hear that the Minister will write to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency about access to CGRP medications through primary care, and to hear him acknowledge the role local pharmacies could play in helping people in the community. We will keep working for change for all people living with migraine.”

You can read a transcript of the debate here or watch it back here. The debate has been covered by BBC News and other publications and since Wednesday, The Migraine Trust has seen a significant increase in calls to our helpline.

We are continuing to work with MPs, Health minsters and relevant bodies to build on the momentum the debate has generated for better migraine care, and we want people living with migraine to keep writing to their MPs to raise awareness and press the Government and all parties for action.

Contact us at or sign up to our e-bulletins if you’d like to get involved.