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‘High variation’ in pain management care, reveals National Pain Audit

Pain clin­ics make a real dif­fer­ence to the major­i­ty of their users, but many patients do not have access to ade­quate ser­vices or face long wait­ing lists. These were among the find­ings of the Nation­al Pain Audit (NPA), the first com­pre­hen­sive sur­vey of pain man­age­ment ser­vices across Eng­land and Wales.

Peo­ple liv­ing with chron­ic pain con­di­tions in Eng­land and Wales will also now be able to access infor­ma­tion about the spe­cial­ist clin­ics in their local area after find­ings from the audit were made avail­able online. By look­ing up your post­code you can check whether, for exam­ple, the pain clin­ics in your area have an occu­pa­tion­al ther­a­pist or acupunc­tur­ist, or if they run self-help edu­ca­tion sessions.

The three-year project car­ried out by the British Pain Soci­ety and Dr Fos­ter Intel­li­gence mea­sured the avail­abil­i­ty and activ­i­ty of NHS cen­tres spe­cial­is­ing in the diag­no­sis and man­age­ment of chron­ic pain. The NPA found that ser­vice users typ­i­cal­ly had a very poor qual­i­ty of life and that the great­est impact patients report­ed was on their work­ing lives.

Only 40% of ser­vices met the min­i­mum stan­dards for mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary care set by the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion for the Study of Pain, where patients are seen by coor­di­nat­ed teams of psy­chol­o­gists, phys­io­ther­a­pists and doc­tors. Wait­ing times were also raised as a mat­ter for con­cern, as although 80% of clin­ics in Eng­land and 50% in Wales met the government’s eigh­teen-week stan­dard, the NPA recog­nised the severe effect on patients’ men­tal and phys­i­cal health of endur­ing extend­ed peri­ods await­ing treatment.

Despite these short­com­ings, the poten­tial for spe­cial­ist pain ser­vices to improve the lives of peo­ple with pain is empha­sised by the audit’s report. More than half of clin­ics sur­veyed report­ed improve­ments in patients’ over­all qual­i­ty of life, with around 70% achiev­ing a reduc­tion in the sever­i­ty of their pain. The NPA also heard many pos­i­tive accounts of their expe­ri­ences from ser­vice users, espe­cial­ly in terms of the sup­port and advice they received. The report sug­gest­ed that the ben­e­fits these ser­vices bring to patients might at the same time prove cost effec­tive, appear­ing to reduce vis­its to A&E for emer­gency pain relief.

To see infor­ma­tion about pain clin­ics in your area visit:


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