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Managing pain 2019

Chronic pain patients should be at the heart of pain management

I lived with pain for over 20 years; I understand patients’ struggles. Pain is a hidden condition that blights the lives of more than 28 million people in the UK alone, and we need long-term solutions that better meet their needs.  


Antony Chuter

Chair of Pain UK 

Pain isn’t always visible, but it has a profound and devastating impact on the physical, emotional and economic wellbeing of individuals. The Chief Medical Officer reports that 25% of patients who experience long-term pain lose their jobs and 41% of people who attend pain clinics say that their pain has prevented them from working. Beyond that, many also experience mental health issues and a breakdown of relationships. 

Out of the 28 million people living with pain in the UK, 8 million live with moderate to severe pain and 20 million have mild to moderate pain. I’m aware that there are millions of people right now who feel isolated by the stigma that still surrounds pain. Having lived with long-term pain for well over 20 years, I understand their struggles. I also know that, with the right support, there is hope. The most important thing my GP ever told me was: “I don’t know what’s causing the pain, but I believe you and we’re going to work through this together.”   

Specialist teams are needed to support patients with chronic pain 

One of the major challenges facing those living with pain is accessing treatment. While there is a whole raft of pain medication out there, treatments all have their limitations. There is no magic fix. However, we do know that the most effective forms of treatment involve multidisciplinary teams of psychologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists who are highly skilled in the area of pain management. 

Currently, patients must sustain three months’ pain before a referral

My team here at Pain UK, the umbrella organisations we represent, and many of the GPs we work with, want to see a more patient-centric approach to pain management where individuals can access support from these specialist teams within their own community. Currently, many patients need to experience chronic pain for more than three months before they get a referral. 

Within 18 months of my first experience of chronic pain, I’d lost my job, my home and my partner.

Depending on their location, they may have to wait anywhere between six and 18 months before they get an appointment at a pain management clinic. That’s just too long. Within 18 months of my first experience of chronic pain, I’d lost my job, my home and my partner. 

It’s also unrealistic to think that a two-week pain management programme can equip an individual to cope with a lifetime of pain. The reality is that chronic pain is a long-term condition that needs a long-term approach.Having worked closely with the Royal College of General Practitioners, as the elected chair of their patient group, I know that many GPs themselves feel very restricted by the limited time and resources they have to devote to patients with pain. Everyone deserves a chance to live a fulfilling life. By giving patients access to relevant and timely support we can change the outlook for so many. I hope this publication will help to 

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