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Recent changes to chronic pain services generally positive but also highlight change in health inequalities

18 November 2020

The Chronic Pain Health Integration Team (HIT) conducted a survey of chronic pain service providers across Bristol and Bath during the summer months to see how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted them.

The majority of services moved to online and/or telephone formats to replace face to face appointments, assessments and therapies. The healthcare professionals that completed the survey found, in their experience, the majority of their patients responded positively to these adjustments. The healthcare professionals found that there was improved patient attendance and were generally impressed with how well remote services could work.

Based on the service providers’ experience of the changes, patients seemed to find remote services more convenient, flexible and it reduced the need for travel. This made it easier for patients with reduced mobility or whose pain is made worse by travel. They also found that their patients seemed more ‘relaxed and less anxious’ which they felt made it easier to have more meaningful discussions about their condition and treatment.

However the survey respondents highlighted that some of their patients found it challenging to access services once they changed to online and/or telephone formats. This was down to a variety of reasons including limited IT access, language barriers, conditions which limited accessibility (e.g. hearing difficulties or learning difficulties), limited time and space/privacy within the home to engage with remote services.

Dr Alison Llewellyn, Project Manager of the Chronic Pain Health Integration Team said: "It is encouraging to see that the adaptations that services made in response to COVID-19 have generally worked well for most people but it's important to note that the reduction of face-to-face options has meant that some people are not able to access services.

"The nature of health inequalities has changed in a way where patients who were once disadvantaged by face-to-face appointments because of the need to travel are now able to attend but now other people are excluded because services have become remote.

"This survey shows the importance of having a more inclusive approach to the way services are offered and providing patients the choice of attending either remotely or in person will be key to more effective care going forwards."

Recent changes to chronic pain services generally positive but also highlight change in health inequalities
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