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Managing the Pain

25 August 2016

Pain Management

Believed to be the oldest course of its kind in the world, the Pain Management programme at Cardiff University provides medical professionals with the skills needed to help tackle the global issue of chronic pain management.

Chronic pain is continuous, long-term pain of more than 12 weeks or after the time that healing should have occurred after trauma or surgery. It is thought to effect over 14 million adults in the UK and currently costs the UK economy a staggering £15.4bn per year in welfare benefits and £4.6bn per year in costs associated with GP visits.

Dr Ann Taylor from the School of Medicine, said: “We are extremely proud to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of our education programmes. The MSc in Pain Management was a ground-breaking course when first launched in 1996, being inter-professional and distance learning. Over the years it has been developed and revised and is now fully e-learning, using a range of innovative content and assessment techniques to improve student learning and success.

“Those that completed the course in the early days were very much pioneers as pain was not seen as a specialist area of practice, as it is now. Our MSc provides evidence-based education to a wide range of health professionals who are working together and learning about each other's skills. Hence, those experiencing and living with pain have health professionals who are able to provide up to date and relevant information to aid their decisions about how their pain should be managed.”

The course is supplemented by the Pain Community Centre, a free online learning resource for any healthcare professional seeking evidence-based information and education on pain and its management. Over 19,000 visitors access the free online learning resource each month, with 75% of those visitors being from outside the UK – evidence supporting the global appeal of high quality pain management programmes as well as the scale of the problem worldwide for individuals suffering with long-term chronic pain.

Vital to the success of the programme in recent years has been the industry support from Napp Pharmaceuticals Limited. They have been instrumental in sustaining the programmes and supporting the opportunity for health professionals to learn about the management of chronic pain and, most importantly, go on to improve the lives of people living with the devastating effects of pain on a daily basis.

Dr Paul Schofield, Medical Director at Napp Pharmaceuticals said: “We know that nearly a quarter of all GP visits are in relation to chronic pain – this is a staggering figure, particularly when set against the lack of opportunities there are for frontline health professionals to learn about effective pain management. Until chronic pain becomes an educational and clinical priority, its impact for patients, their families, the NHS and the wider economy will continue to rise. We’ve been working to address this for more than 30 years now and we are incredibly proud to be continuing this through our work with Cardiff University”.

Importantly, the education provided at Cardiff is being used to transform pain services in the community across the UK. Chronic pain continues to be an area of education that is woefully neglected, despite the huge impact of chronic pain on patients in the UK and the significant burden on healthcare systems. Currently, only 11% of UK undergraduate medical schools offer a dedicated pain module and just 4% require medical students to undertake some form of pain training. Pain education has enabled healthcare professionals to advance their knowledge of pain management in the primary, secondary and tertiary care setting and further enables them to support patients with pain conditions.

Dr Ahilan Hariratnajothi, a GP from Bristol, completed a PGDip in Pain Management at Cardiff University and has since implemented a new approach to pain management in his surgery. Dr Hariratnajothi said: “many of my patients suffer from chronic pain and the long-term impact for both the patient and their families can be absolutely life-changing. After completing six modules in Pain Management at Cardiff University, we developed and implemented a dedicated pain clinic at the surgery and this has truly helped us to better support our patients.

“It’s impossible to describe how pain can impact every part of someone’s life and even small improvements can be life changing for patients. It can mean getting back to work, taking part in family activities or even getting out of the house and going for a walk. We’re delighted to see that this vital education is continuing to be made available at Cardiff University.”

Ultimately, it is thousands of patients who have benefitted from the training undertaken by healthcare professionals.

Anthony Chutter, Chair of Pain UK and Chair of the British Patient Societies’ Patient Liaison Committee said:  “I have lived with pain for over 20 years and in that time I have had many interactions with health care professionals. I have grown to understand the vast difference in knowledge, empathy and humanity of health care professionals who have been educated about people living with and in pain and those who are not. Being cared for by those without education adds to the uphill battle that life already presents for someone living with and in pain. Those who are educated, walk alongside us and help us along the way.”