By Kevin Harfoot, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, NTF

The news that NHS England have made funding available for Magnetic Resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) for the treatment of essential tremor starting in April 2021, comes as great news to people in England who have moderate to severe medication-refractory essential tremor.

Whilst prescription drugs and other surgical treatment such as DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) have been available for some time, their attributes and effectiveness do not suit everyone.  The availability of this new focused ultrasound procedure, free to all on the NHS is a breakthrough and opens more doors for more people living with essential tremor.

As background, the first UK clinical trial took place in St. Mary’s Hospital, London in 2016. This started a journey during which many supporters of the National Tremor Foundation together with Insightec set out to raise awareness of essential tremor and educate people about the benefits of MRgFUS treatment. The many years of raising awareness of this little-known condition and for campaigning for this new treatment option should be rewarding for many people in the UK and beyond.

For those who are only now experiencing and learning of this puzzling condition, this news should bring a great deal of optimism, hope, and confidence into their lives. While for those who have lived with this debilitating condition most of their lives, there should be satisfaction in knowing that there are new treatment options available. There is hope that a treatment could help ease the day-to-day struggles with seemingly straight forward tasks such as holding a newspaper, drinking from a cup, writing a signature, or holding cutlery still whilst trying to eat. All of these struggles in turn can affect a person’s everyday life and interactions with family, friends, fellow students, work colleagues and the general public.

Having lived with essential tremor myself for so long, spending much of the 1980’s and 1990’s devising all sort of schemes to eradicate my tremor, a treatment that can be carried out as a day patient is truly wonderful. I would like to think that the days where people need to hide their shaking, avoid social gatherings, cut short promising careers, turn down that offer of a drink could be reduced for people with essential tremor. This treatment could encourage people to follow their dreams, enhance their careers, pursue their hobbies, and maintain an active social life. Even for those people unable to receive this treatment, the fact that there is an additional treatment option speaks to growing awareness for essential tremor.

The National Tremor Foundation is extremely proud to have played a small part in assisting the dedicated and hardworking team at Imperial Health healthcare, and campaigning with the team at Insightec to raise awareness of essential tremor.

The NTF also thanks every single person who wrote to their Member of Parliament or who donated to the NTF charity. We rely on donations to help keep our office open and our website live, current, and informative. Without this support from so many people it would be very difficult to maintain our website, which attracts approximately 500,000 visitors every year.

The aim now for the National Tremor Foundation is to continue to raise awareness of essential tremor throughout the UK, particularly in schools and colleges, where maybe not enough is known at present. In conjunction with this, we really hope that our efforts continue to expand patient access to treatment.

  1. As with all medical procedures, there are risks associated with focused ultrasound treatment which should be discussed with a physician. The most common complications associated with the treatment are transient or long-term numbness and tingling and imbalance/gait disturbance.

Further reading