The restarting of pain management services in Scotland should be an “essential” part of remobilising the NHS after covid, according to new guidance.
NHS boards are being asked to set out actions being taken to get pain services up and running again and improve the support being offered in their local area.
The requirement is set out in a new framework published by the Scottish government on the recovery and remobilisation of specialist pain management services, which says it should be treated as an urgent priority.
It notes initial feedback from people living with pain shows their quality of life has been affected due to issues such as being unable to access health and leisure facilities and cancellation of routine NHS treatments.
“It is likely that covid-19 itself will add further to the prevalence and severity of chronic pain in the Scottish population,” the report notes.
Waiting times across pain management services were in many areas in excess of targets pre-pandemic.
Additional pressure on waiting lists is expected as services resume due to specialist staff such as consultant anaesthetists, nurses, psychologists, physiotherapists being redeployed from pain services during lockdown.
People with the most acute needs should now be prioritised and those awaiting treatment should be contacted to advise them about any changes to their local service, treatment options and expected time frame for their next appointment.
In the report, John Harden, Deputy National Clinical Director and Chair of the National Advisory Committee on Chronic Pain highlighted people across Scotland have had to deal with the impact of covid-19 and the effects of lockdown on their quality of life and wellbeing.
“This is especially true for people with chronic pain who may already have been experiencing many challenges in their day to day lives, and reliant on access to services and support to help them manage their condition,” he said.
“Furthermore, some people will have experienced or even developed persistent pain as a result of the interruption lockdown had on their normal activities.
“NHS Scotland remains committed to resuming the full range of pain management services as soon as it is safe to do so. It is, however, important to note that some areas are still facing restrictions as a result of the ongoing efforts to control the virus.”
Mr Harden said the recovery framework requires NHS boards to clearly set out what actions they are taking to restart their pain services and identify opportunities to “improve and enhance the support available”.
“This will include harnessing the digital progress seen in recent months and offering virtual or telephone consultations to support pain management where possible and appropriate.”
He said the document was also the first stage in developing a new Framework for Chronic Pain Service Delivery next year, as pledged in the Programme for Government announced earlier this month.
A review of the National Advisory Committee for Chronic Pain is also taking place.
“Together, this work aims to deliver improved care and support for people with chronic pain across all conditions and healthcare pathways to improve people’s quality of life and wellbeing,” he added.