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This article is from the WebMD News Archive

Almost half of people with pain ‘failed by NHS’

Politicians are urged to tackle the UKs ‘inadequate’ care of chronic pain, while survey reveals widespread patient uncertainty about medication to treat it
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

11th January 2011 - Almost half of people living with chronic pain in the UK are being failed by the treatments on offer to them, according to a major report.

It found that the UK comes bottom of the list of 15 European countries in terms of the negative impact that chronic pain has on people’s lives.

Drawn up by the charities Action on Pain and Arthritis Care, together with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, the document says the shortcomings of pain management services have a “deeply distressing impact” on the home and working lives of all those it affects.

The Department of Health said it recognised that there were “unacceptable” variations in the care that people received.

Sick man of Europe

The UK Pain Proposal Report is part of a campaign involving 15 European countries. It found that nearly half (45%) of the estimated 7.8 million people living with chronic pain in the UK don’t have access to adequate management for their pain compared to only 19% of people in Germany.

Among other findings are that:

  • Almost half (43%) of people with chronic pain believe that their condition has a negative impact on family and friends
  • 71% say that pain directly affects their employment status and on average, an alarming 42% are unable to work
  • 28% are worried about losing their job and 42% feared that pain would stop them progressing in their career

Painful to the economy

The report says that chronic pain is responsible for 4.6 million GP appointments each year in the UK, costing taxpayers £69 million. It calls for a more ‘joined up’ approach to the management of chronic pain and says that reallocating resources - rather than spending new money - would be enough to improve services.

Ian Semmons, Chairman of Action on Pain, commented in a statement: “Unfortunately many people live their lives with the burden of chronic pain as a constant companion. With few physical clues as to the extent of their suffering their condition is often invisible to others so difficult to understand.

“Such a situation just cannot be ignored by policy makers nor should they under-estimate the enormous impact on those individuals with chronic pain, their families and friends.

“The potential financial burden on the country from not providing an effective pain service within the NHS runs contrary to the government aim of reducing costs. The need for swift and positive action has never been greater.”

“Shocking”: Patients’ rights watchdog

A separate report by a patients’ rights watchdog also called for the NHS to improve its strategy for dealing with chronic pain, after revealing a survey that indicated patchy pain management services coupled with patient uncertainty over medication.

The Patients Association said it was “shocking” that, with so many people experiencing chronic pain on a day to day basis, there was only one pain specialist for every 32,000 sufferers.

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