The quality of chronic pain services in Scotland varies widely from one NHS board to the next, although it has been improving overall, according to a new report.
The research by Healthcare Improvement Scotland found significant differences with regards to how easy it is for patients to access services and what type of service they are offered.
It noted that all Scottish NHS boards have created Service Improvement Groups, which consist of a mix of healthcare professionals, voluntary organisations and patients, and these help to implement improvements in their area.
However, a comparison of boards found that the Service Improvement Groups are at different stages in their development.
The report highlighted the considerable efforts undertaken to help chronic pain sufferers self-manage their condition by producing patient information and providing advice resources.
But it said that, while most NHS boards in Scotland regard collaboration with allied health professionals and/or GPs as a key priority, the researchers only found direct evidence of this in three NHS boards.
To address these concerns, Healthcare Improvement Scotland urged NHS boards to acknowledge the NHS Scotland 2020 Local Delivery Plan.
The scheme requires all NHS boards from this month onwards to set up a service delivery plan, which covers all aspects of chronic pain services, and to implement it.
“The report calls for better training and understanding for healthcare professionals and the public”
NHS boards are also being asked to establish an infrastructure that is supportive of the Scottish Service Model for Chronic Pain. They can access funding provided by the Scottish government to achieve this.
Heather Wallace, chair of Pain Concern, said: “Scotland has had a number of pain reports before, so I opened this report as a hardened cynic. It’s depressingly true that pain services remain patchy and inequitable, waiting times can be long, and we need better access to psychology and spinal cord stimulation.
“So did this report offer anything new? Yes. For the first time there is a shared vision of what a good pain service looks like, and there are steps in place in every health board to drive forward change,” she said.
“Change is badly needed,” she added.”Healthcare professionals need to recognise chronic pain early and help people to find the right advice and help. The report calls for better training and understanding for healthcare professionals and the public.”
Data for the report – entitled Chronic Pain Services in Scotland: Where Are We Now? – was collected between September and November last year, and Healthcare Improvement Scotland noted that improvements have been made since.