CHRONIC PAIN SUFFERERS ‘SIDELINED’ BY NHS
Those suffering from chronic pain are not treated for months
Thursday July 5,2012
By Jo Willey Health Correspondent
MILLIONS of Britons living with chronic pain are being “sidelined” by the NHS, often unable to access specialist care and being left to battle their condition with little support.
A hard-hitting report has slammed “patchy” services for people blighted by constant, long-term pain and say an absence of guidelines across the health service means patients are at the mercy of a postcode lottery to get treatment.
The landmark report, a collaboration between the Royal College of GPs, the British Pain Society, the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition and the Faculty of Pain Medicine, issues a stark warning to government and healthcare providers that current systems and levels of care fall well below satisfactory standards.
It says chronic pain is a “High Street disease” which affects millions yet is grossly mismanaged.
Dr Beverly Collett, chair of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition and consultant in pain management and anaesthesia at Leicester Royal Infirmary NHS Trust, said: “Pain destroys lives. It is a travesty that we are allowing millions of people across the UK to live in constant, chronic pain.
It is a travesty that we are allowing millions of people across the UK to live in constant, chronic pain
“Existing systems of treatment and support are simply not up to scratch and there are significant shortcomings in healthcare delivery that need to be fixed urgently. We cannot abandon people to lives of misery – we must act now.”
Chronic pain is classed as persistent pain which lasts for longer than three months.
At least eight million people in the UK – nearly one-third of all households – are living with pain day to day and almost half of all GP visits are for issues related either directly or indirectly to chronic pain.
The NHS spends more than £500 million a year on pain medication alone, while the UK’s annual incapacity benefit bill for those living with chronic pain stands at £3.8 billion.
Yet a report by the Patients Association released earlier this year revealed that the NHS employs just one pain specialist for every 32,000 sufferers.
This means that just one in four chronic sufferers has ever been referred for specialist care despite the development of powerful new medicines and non-drug treatments which could revolutionise many lives.
The report highlights the need for stronger guidelines and universal criteria governing how chronic pain should be identified and treated.
It also calls for a public awareness campaign to highlight the damaging effect of long term pain on sufferers, as well as the impact it has on society and the economy.
It is estimated that several million working days are lost each year as a result of chronic pain.
Professor Richard Langford, President of the British Pain Society, said: “The British Pain Society is very pleased to endorse this Report, which is an important step to ensuring the translation of the first English Pain Summit Summit’s recommendations, including the development and implementation of assessment and management pathways and quality standards, into reality to benefit the many people living with painful conditions”.
Dr Martin Johnson, Clinical Champion for Pain, Royal College of GPs, said: “Despite chronic pain being one of the commonest presenting symptoms that is dealt within Primary Care there is no standardisation of the systems that are used to identify and assess chronic pain.
“Hopefully the recommendations of this 1st English Pain Summit, including defining specific commissioning guidance for pain will mean that all GP’s will be empowered with new knowledge that will make a difference where it really it counts – improving the lives of our patients living with pain”.
Professor David Rowbotham, Dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine, said: “The Faculty of Pain Medicine fully endorses this comprehensive report. We must ensure that it leads to a new and energetic approach to tackling the devastating effects of chronic pain on sufferers, carers, healthcare services and the economy.”
Health Minister Lord Howe said: “We endorse this call for better services for people with chronic pain. There are some inspiring examples of good pain management services in the NHS, but there is too much variation and many patients do not have access to the services they need.
“Our health reforms set the framework in which high quality services can flourish and we will hold the NHS to account through the NHS Outcomes Framework.”