Health minister responds to chronic pain

April 21, 2009 at 2:28 pm 2 comments

By Jennifer Rigby

The government must take chronic pain – which affects 7.8 million people in the UK – more seriously as a medical condition and take steps to help sufferers, a Labour MP has said.

In an eloquent plea in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons yesterday, Labour MP Anne Begg said a number of things needed to be done to help those in chronic pain, from the appointment of a chronic
pain tsar to raise awareness, to the re-instatement of co-proxamol as a pain management drug available on prescription.

Ms Begg, who is chairman of the recently set up all-party group on chronic pain and a sufferer of the condition herself, said:

“There could not be a better opportunity to consider the problem and suggest solutions. People in pain and the health professionals helping them have been pushing at a closed door for many years now…That door was
closed until recently; suddenly it looks as though it is opening, and I am grateful to the chief medical officer [Sir Liam Donaldson] for beginning that process.”

Sir Liam has recently published his annual report which included a chapter called: ‘Pain: breaking through the barrier’, and suggested that “A major initiative to widen access to high quality pain services would improve the lives of millions of people.”

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health, Ann Keen, said Sir Liam’s report was one of a number of initiatives on chronic pain and congratulated Ms Begg on raising the issue.

“We cannot have people accepting pain and using expressions such as, ‘Well, I mustn’t grumble. I supposed I’m not too bad today,’ when pain is affecting not only their life but the lives of the loved ones, their families, their work and their finances.

“I am delighted that our chief medical officer has taken the issue so seriously in his report, which is independent and will be received in the spirit in which it is meant.”

She listed a host of steps that the government had recently taken or would take on pain management, and added that she was sure “that my hon. Friend will make sure that we fulfil the aims I have set out.”

The steps include:

– placing the issue of dealing with chronic pain ‘at the heart’ of good clinical practice and training;

– including chronic pain management as an assessment in the quality and outcomes framework, or the QOF, which measures the performance of primary care professionals such as GPs and is regulated by the
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

– A board to consider clinical priorities was set up as part of this report and met last month for the first time, and will consider pain as an issue;

– providing funding through the national clinical audit programme to the national pain database, run by the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the British Pain Society;

– setting up, which the government has already done, a musculoskeletal care framework for the NHS; the 18-week commissioning pathway for the management and treatment of chronic pain, to help health professionals follow care protocols; and the NHS Choices website, where patients can choose their care.

Finally, Ms Keen said that for chronic pain “there could be no one better” as a champion than Ms Begg, and thanked her again for raising the issue and for her work on the all-party group on pain.

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