Follow-on peer support groups for people with chronic pain
23 September 2019
Sue Watkins experiences long-term pain. After she attended an NHS pain management programme (PMP), she and a group of fellow PMP patients set up their own “follow-on” peer support group, with support of clinicians from North Bristol NHS Trust (NBT).
Since then, as a patient volunteer, Sue has worked alongside CLAHRC West researchers, clinicians and fellow patients to create tools to support the development of peer support groups for others living with chronic pain. They presented their findings at the British Pain Society Pain Management Programme Special Interest Group conference in September.
They shared almost 200 leaflets with the audience, to help patients and clinicians develop peer support groups after NHS PMPs. These leaflets were co-designed with patient volunteers and people who had taken part in follow-on peer support groups. The leaflets are relevant for all clinicians who facilitate pain management courses and patients who take part.
If you run an NHS Pain Management Programme and are interested in getting editable Word versions of these leaflets to try out in your own pain management groups, please share your contact details at http://bit.ly/followongroups and CLAHRC West will email them to you.
Dr Michelle Farr, a Senior Research Associate at NIHR CLAHRC West and the University of Bristol, said:
“Presenting at the conference was a perfect opportunity to share this work with those who support people living with chronic pain. We hope that the leaflets can be used in other NHS Trusts, and help to develop peer support in many different places. This is a low-cost and effective intervention that can make a real difference to some people who experience chronic pain.”
The effects of chronic pain
Chronic pain affects more than two-fifths of the UK population. It can impact a person’s mobility and independence, and lead to depression. Group pain management can help people manage the effects that pain has on their daily life and improve how they cope with it. These NHS PMPs have been shown to have good results, but improvements can be harder to sustain over a longer time period.
North Bristol NHS Trust is tackling this problem with its follow-on peer support groups for people once they’ve finished their PMP. Researchers interviewed 45 people, including a range of clinical staff involved in running PMPs, patient tutor volunteers and patients who have, and haven’t, attended follow-on groups. Surveys have also been developed and analysed to understand how follow-on groups are being implemented and their potential impact on individual wellbeing.
The team has found that the ongoing social connections enabled by attending a follow-on group are important to some people:
“I think it’s helped a lot because I don’t feel on my own anymore”