Patients with painful back problems are being forced to pay for treatment because it is not available on the NHS.

A new study has revealed a postcode lottery for Sussex with patients in some parts of the county being referred for osteopathy by their primary care trust while those in neighbouring areas are not.

NHS West Sussex referred more than 1,800 patients over the last year while its counterparts in Brighton and Hove and East Sussex do not pay for the treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) recommends GPs should refer patients with low back pain for a course of manual therapies, including osteopathy.

A spokeswoman for NHS Brighton and Hove said it offered patients a variety of treatment that covered all aspects of back pain, so osteopathy was not necessary.

She said: “NHS Brighton and Hove funds the complete range of treatments for lower back pain described in the Nice guidance, including spinal manipulation and acupuncture.

“Our physiotherapy service employs many staff who are qualified and experienced in the delivery of these treatments and, coupled with short waiting times, provide an exceptional service to all patients irrespective of income.”

The British Osteopathic Society has published the study into primary care trust referrals around the country.

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