NHS gadget will end agony for 11,000 suffering from ‘cluster’ headaches

Neurologist explains symptoms of ‘thunderclap’ headaches

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The revolutionary gadget is held against the neck and works by delivering a low-level electric current to block pain signals. This in turn relieves the agony experienced by people suffering from “cluster” headaches. NHS England yesterday announced it is expanding the use of “gammaCore” devices after successful trials held over the past two years. 

The rollout is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, which is committed to using the latest treatments and therapies to improve patient care.

Around 11,000 people who suffer from the debilitating headaches are set to benefit from the devices.

Stephen Powis, NHS medical director, said: “While they may be small, these devices will make a huge difference to people who suffer from these debilitating headaches – relieving painful symptoms and allowing people to go about their daily lives as normal.

“The NHS Long Term Plan committed to making cutting-edge treatments and technology available to save and improve lives.”

Cluster headaches begin quickly and are often described as a sharp, burning or piercing sensation on one side of the head with attacks lasting between 15 minutes and three hours and occurring up to eight times a day.

While rare, the condition is more common in men and tends to start when they are in their 30s or 40s. Clinicians were happy to now have another treatment option for patients, particularly for those who have not had success with other treatments, including triptan – painkillers used to ease migraines and severe headaches.


The technology is being made available as part of the new MedTech Funding Mandate policy, which came into effect on Thursday, allowing patients to benefit from fast-tracked innovations from the NHS.

About one to two people in every 1,000 are affected by the rare type of headache and around one in 20 do not respond to treatment with painkillers or oxygen.

Matthew Whitty, director of innovation and life sciences for NHS England, said: “Despite the pandemic, we remain committed to delivering on the ambitious commitments set out in the Long Term Plan to support the latest innovations and allow patients to utilise them across the country, as quickly as possible.

“The gammaCore device will provide life-changing benefits for thousands of people.”

The device is just one of a number of recent successes for the National Health Service.

The NHS was the first health service in the world to deliver the Pfizer and Oxford AstraZeneca Covid vaccines outside of a clinical trial.


Dexamethasone, an inexpensive steroid, was discovered to be the first effective treatment for Covid thanks to trials in the NHS.

NHS England has also spent more than £160million on Covid-friendly cancer drugs that make it safer for patients to receive treatment by reducing the impact on immune systems or limiting hospital visits.

NHS England’s world-leading commercial capabilities mean patients were first in Europe to receive CAR-T therapy, which can cure previously untreatable cancers.

In addition, patients with cystic fibrosis – whose plight has been campaigned for by The Daily Express –have benefited from new medicines that can reverse the condition.

The NHS has also rolled out glucose monitors to improve diabetes care.

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