Gloucestershire treatment algorithm is harmful and at odds with NICE

Gloucestershire is a beautiful county – but like the villages in Midsomer Murders, a potentially harmful place to live if you need B12 injections and your GP follows this Primary Care Management Treatment Algorithm. (4th section down).

How many B12 deficient patients are at risk of permanent damage in this area? How many struggle with poor mental health? How many are bed bound, confused, living in pain believing that their B12 deficiency is being ‘treated’ so wondering what on earth is causing their body and mind to feel like it’s shutting down?

There are threads on Twitter of doctors from Gloucestershire proudly sharing this treatment algorithm and feeling really smart because they were ahead of the COVID 19 curve in giving just about everybody oral B12 supplements.

It’s all in your mind…

I’ve heard of many patients being told that their debilitating symptoms can’t be due to B12 deficiency. That it’s more likely to be due to their age, their lifestyle, or the fact they have young children, or a stressful job, or – and this is the worst, that it’s all in their “imagination”.

So the long suffering patient is either sent to hospital to see every other Tom Dick or Harry in a network of ‘ologists’ often waiting months for appointments in order that it satisfies the urge of the GP to pin the symptoms on ‘something else’ because ‘it won’t be B12 deficiency causing the symptoms because your serum levels are really high at 200pg/ml.”

My own deficiency could have been ignored if I’d lived in this area. You’ll see they don’t appear to bother with people with serum level’s over 180pg/ml. I was diagnosed with a level of 216 (reference range of 220 -771). I wouldn’t even be worthy of the GP looking at the chart despite my many presenting symptoms. The problem of differing reference ranges of B12 levels has been well documented and the BMJ state that there is no ideal test and that the clinical picture is of utmost importance.

Terrifying isn’t it?

What’s really worrying about B12 deficiency and the way it is handled by those who have little knowledge of it, is that the patient very often starts off in the dark and then remains in the dark because they ‘trust’ that their GP is ‘all knowing’. They don’t consider that the information their GP has imparted is not complete, not properly informed, not helpful. They then deteriorate, but don’t question their treatment, don’t ask Dr Google, don’t seek more information because they have been either pushed down another path for a further red herring diagnosis or just simply ignored.

How to start treatment with B12 injections in Gloucestershire using this algorithm: 

  1. Your B12 has to be lower than 180pg/ml
  2. You must have neurological symptoms (on their list)
  3. You must have macrocytosis and anaemia
  4. You must be positive for anti intrinsic factor antibodies – (but after loading you will be put on oral tablets!)

But if you are not presenting with the list of ‘allowed neurological symptoms’ i.e. those recognised by your GP – and you have no anaemia (which by the way, is not always present and can be a very late stage symptom) then, even if your result falls between 150-180 – the GP is instructed to:

“Reassure the patient that this is unlikely to be of concern. Recheck serum B12 after 3 months, if still low, monitor B12 level every 6 months for 1 year and then annually for 2-5 years.” 

Now I’m no rocket scientist but even I know that this is pure bonkers. It still offers no treatment.

B12 deficiency comes in all shapes and sizes, with many causes and many symptoms

If I use my own case as an exercise of using this algorithm here: –
My level was 220, I had no anaemia, no IFA, no neurological symptoms that they list, but I was losing my memory, I had bowel and bladder problems, blurred vision, insomnia, anxiety, low back problems to name a just a few and yet I wouldn’t warrant treating. I dread to think how quickly I would have been confined to a care home with early onset dementia if I had been ‘cared for’ here.

Even if I had PA, if my GP had used this chart I would be placed onto oral tablets following the loading dose. This is complete madness. (Please see more on the low quality evidence on oral supplementation  here)

If my deficiency had been caused by malabsorption due to a drug such as metformin for diabetes I would have been advised to take calcium supplements or increase dietary calcium but would not be  given B12 injections in fact I would only be allowed B12 oral tablets. This is totally bizarre, misinformed guidance.

Where is the patient?

At no point does this algorithm suggest LISTENING to the patient or considering the clinical picture. The patient doesn’t exist here, just blood forms and it’s completely wrong.

The only tiny mention ‘people’ get here is the suggestion that buying oral supplements over the counter may be cheaper than the NHS Prescription charge. WOW.

This algorithm is at odds with NICE guidance and is a ridiculous home-made protocol which won’t work for the vast majority. It’s time for Gloucestershire to start following good practice for patients.

What NICE state:

  • Not thought to be diet related — administer hydroxocobalamin 1 mg intramuscularly every 2–3 months for life.
  • Thought to be diet related — advise people either to take oral cyanocobalamin tablets 50–150 micrograms daily

So what can be done?

If you are in Gloucestershire – (or anywhere else this is happening), why not take action to make change? Your voice counts and you absolutely matter.

Why not contact;
The Expert Patient Programme – (The EPP is an NHS initiative to improve the lives of those living with long-term conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, lupus, epilepsy, ME, arthritis, fibromyalgia or heart disease). NHS Gloucestershire offers the Expert Patient Programme (EPP) which you can access by telephone on 0300 421 1623

B12 deficiency is a long term condition, you have a lot to offer, make sure you are represented! Get you voice heard here and ask for their help.

Healthwatch
You could also call Healthwatch Gloucestershire on 0800 652 5193 tell them your story, ask for their help in accessing correct treatment.

Write to your CCG, why not email your MP and maybe send them this blog? Why not ask your friends and family to do the same?

The BSH have recently bowed under public pressure let’s help Gloucestershire to do the same here, make your voice count!

Don’t let your GP take you down Folly Lane, there is no time for foolishness or delay in treating B12 deficiency, time is of the essence and you deserve every chance possible of repairing your nerves.

Very best wishes

Tracey
www.b12deficiency.info

If you think you might be B12 deficient please click here, and please try not to supplement before testing.

Please add your signature here if you would like to support making B12 OTC in the UK – Please DO NOT pay to sign! Any money given does not go toward the cause you are supporting.

 

Can you spare a minute for Matthew?

In November 2012 Matthew Leahy was admitted to a Mental Health Unit  – The Linden Centre, Essex where he was found hanged seven days later. He was just 20 years old!

Matthew’s mother Melanie has since become aware of his low vitamin B12 levels, and probable coeliac disease. His symptoms included; psychosis, depression, insomnia, exhaustion, constipation and stomach problems.

I’m reaching out to ask you to sign Melanie’s petition; https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/255823

From Matthew’s records it appears the first sign of B12 deficiency was recorded in May 2011 at a level of 127pg/ml, reference range 180 -914. In June 2011 low B12 was recorded again.

In Matthew’s notes it states that in July 2011 his B12 level was 154pg/ml and that B12 was prescribed, however, this was not given by injection, if at all, because in August 2011 Matthew’s B12 level had dropped to 122pg/ml.

It is also clear from Matthew’s notes that his thyroid function was impacted.

Matthew’s B12 levels were below range and dropping. See the note to the GP that they state “T4/TSH and B12 were ‘slightly abnormal and kindly arrange follow up blood test”. BUT NO treatment for these was instructed or given.

You can see that below an extremely low level of 122pg/ml is recorded as ‘normal’. Matthew was heavily symptomatic for both B12 deficiency and thyroid dysfunction and despite repeated testing, correct treatment was not given.

If you are from the UK please sign this petition and share this blog. Melanie needs to reach 100,000 signatures by the 6th of November for her petition to be discussed in Parliament – this date has been brought forward from the 23rd of November due to Parliament closing for the General Election so it is a race against time.

At the time of writing the petition has 54,050 signatures.

Melanie’s aim is to have a Public Enquiry into the failings surrounding Matthew’s death in order to help stop this happening again.

Please sign by following this link; https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/255823

You only need to give your name, email address and postcode and then you must confirm the email from the Petitions Team for your signature to be counted.

The connection between poor mental health and low B12 was made over 100 years ago but too many remain untreated despite severe symptoms and low B12 levels. Please see; http://www.twitlonger.com/show/n_1s0ggga

If you or your loved ones are experiencing mental health problems and B12 deficiency hasn’t been explored please see; https://www.b12deficiency.info/b12-and-mental-health/ and;

https://www.b12deficiency.info/what-to-do-next/

#matthewleahy #matthewscampaign
#MatthewLeahy #aminute4matthew
You can visit Melanie’s website here and FaceBook 
If you are experiencing problems with accessing treatment;
Thank you for your help in signing and sharing.
Best wishes
Tracey x