At any one time a million people in England are living with long term pain which could have been prevented or be being significantly better treated, according to joint UCL School of Pharmacy and UK Clinical Pharmacy Association report published today.
Across the UK 5 to 10 million more members of the public have conditions which cause them varying degrees of intermittent or persistent pain, and who require good quality health and social support.
Co-author of the report Relieving Persistent Pain, Improving Health Outcomes Professor David Taylor (UCL School of Pharmacy) said: "Financially, pain related disorders cost this country in excess of £10 billion a year, over and above the unrecorded personal costs involved. Increased investment in specialist services is needed. But the problem this often neglected field presents is far too big for specialist care alone to resolve.
"New pain management related QoF payments for GPs might promote better outcomes. However, four out of five people already think they should go to pharmacies with pain related problems. Enhanced community pharmacy based services could help more of us respond to pain in timely and effective ways, and reduce the prevalence of persistent pain."
Four out of five people already think they should go to pharmacies with pain related problems. Enhanced community pharmacy based services could help more of us respond to pain in timely and effective ways, and reduce the prevalence of persistent pain.
Professor David Taylor
Pharmacists have responsibilities for the safe and effective use of both prescribed and self purchased medicines, which in areas like pain management also requires understanding of the value of non-drug treatments and care. Examples of the ways in which improved community pharmacy services (which will in future be complemented by innovations such as giving NHS users power over who can see and amend their computerised health records) include:
- increasing the use of structured pain assessments in the community;
- providing self care support, including better protection against the harmful or ineffective use of ’minor’ analgesics and informing public awareness of what pains are best accepted and ’worked through’, and those which need prompt relief; and
- facilitating access to psychological and other non-pharmaceutical pain care providers, and the use of computer based services.
The incidence of persistent pain rises as populations age. It is commonly associated with conditions such as back disorders, rheumatoid and osteo-arthritis, diabetes (which can damage nerves), cancers and traumatic injuries, including the after effects of surgery. Yet persistent pain is also a condition in its own right.
Jennifer Gill (UCL School of Pharmacy) said: "Normal adaptive pain is useful - it protects us from injury and aids the recovery of damaged tissue by making it unusually sensitive. But maladaptive ’neuropathic’ and ’functional’ pains have become dis-linked from these beneficial ends. They result from nerve damage or from changes in the working of the nervous system in the spine and elsewhere which amplify pain signals in the brain for no good purpose.