The government and the various health agencies are slowly but surely waking up to the fact that prolonged pain is a serious health issue that needs to be properly addressed.

In November 2011 a Pain Summit took place for the first time attended by healthcare professionals, academics, and patient groups. Delegates heard from various speakers about the measures being taken to try and improve the lives of those living with chronic pain. The recommendations included the introduction of NICE quality standard on pain management.

The Pain Summit was organised by a number of bodies including the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition; the British Pain Society; the Faculty of Pain Medicine; and the Royal College of General Practitioners. Delegates heard that the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report of 2008 had raised awareness of pain as a public health issue.

One of the speakers at the 2011 Summit was the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Quality at the Department of Health. He referred to an earlier Australian Summit which had led to a significant increase in the awareness of pain in that country. He expressed the Government’s wish that the English Pain Summit would have a similar impact over here. The policymakers, healthcare professionals, and patient groups all have an important part to play.

The government, and especially the Department of Health, is said to have taken note of the enormous impact that chronic pain in all of its forms can have upon the sufferers, their friends, and their families. A cynic might say that the Government is only interested in the financial cost but, whatever the motives behind any new initiative; it can only be of benefit to the unfortunate victims.

A number of recommendations have been made to increase awareness of the needs of patients, their carers, and the medics who encounter people living with chronic pain. The successful management of pain related conditions means that patients must not be left to suffer alone.

It should also be remembered that chronic pain is not just about the physical effects. Many patients also suffer emotionally and psychologically. Low mood, depression, fatigue, and sleep deprivation can be as debilitating as the pain itself.

It is said that an effective treatment regime starts with identifying what the sufferer most wants to achieve and putting a plan in place to help them achieve it. A good early diagnosis is key to providing the patient with the best possible outcome. Sadly, despite all of the comforting talk from Government and others, this fails to happen far too often.

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