Thousands of Derbyshire patients with chronic pain 'not getting help they need'
TENS of thousands of people suffering from long-term pain are being let down by health services in Derbyshire, a report says.
There are about 90,000 people who experience frequent pain in the county – but the majority are not receiving the help they need, according to a review by Derbyshire County Council.
Councillor Garry Purdy, who led the review, expressed concern as he said the failure to give patients the support they need "can lead to suicides".
The cabinet member for public health, Councillor Carol Hart, said she believed chronic pain – defined as long-lasting discomfort – had been a "neglected area" in Derbyshire.
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The review, carried out by the improvement and scrutiny committee at County Hall, looked at how patients with chronic pain are assessed, referred and treated in Derbyshire.
It looked at the role of primary and secondary care services and the role of commissioners and concluded that "improvements need to be made".
Mr Purdy said the committee had identified a lack of co-ordination between service providers – such as Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and chronic pain support group Coping – and a lack of referral guidelines.
Pain clinics at the Royal Derby Hospital and in Chesterfield have also been struggling to cope with demand, it said. The committee made five key recommendations.
Better advertising of what help there is;
Each patient complaining of chronic pain should undergo a "needs assessment", with the results used to shape the support that person receives;
Clear referral guidelines for GPs and other health professions should be drawn up;
Consideration should be given to the commissioning of community-based services to reach more rural areas;
Ensure services are supported by physiotherapy and psychological therapy support.
The committee said a multi-agency steering group ought to be established to oversee the implementation of the recommendations.
Dr Adrian Searle, lead clinician of pain services at Derby Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, welcomed the report.
He said: "The chronic pain team in Derby broadly welcome the findings of the scrutiny committee's report. Chronic pain has long been a 'Cinderella speciality' that has not attracted attention commensurate with its prevalence in the community."
Dr David Farquharson, lead consultant for pain medicine at Chesterfield Royal Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, added: "I thought, on the whole, this was a very fair description of a complex situation and I am heartened, on behalf of our patients, that interest is being shown in the topic."