As 2020 draws to an end the impact on pain management services in the NHS has been dramatic and severe. As the COVID19 pandemic continued its deadly sweep across the UK all the NHS pain clinics understandably closed their doors to patients with just a fraction providing a telephone support service. Pain clinic staff were drafted to the wards to provide much needed assistance to the staff struggling to cope with the influx of patients. As the year went by pain clinics in some areas increased their telephone/video consultations and subsequently started to do face to face appointments. Yet other areas particularly Scotland continued to keep their doors closed – a decision that was hard to understand given the positive response in other areas.
What has been the impact on Action on Pain? After chatting to our volunteers we knew that we needed to keep PainLine running- they were determined to do so!! That it was the right decision showed as we handled over 2900 calls and 1743 emails from people seeking advice and support in only six months. We were able to help many people, give reassurance and to be there when they needed us. As our volunteers said ” it was very tiring but very rewarding. That we stayed open when other helplines closed shows what Action on Pain is all about-we care about people affected by chronic pain”
In 2021 we will still provide the same levels of service, support and friendly advice. All being well COVID19 will be defeated as the vaccination programme takes effect and we get used to the new normal. NHS pain services will hopefully get back into their routine yet the challenges of long waiting lists, staff shortages and underfunding will remain, There are real dangers that services will be diluted if the new NICE guidelines are approved and implemented. Drawn up from a very low evidence baseline these guidelines have been castigated from many sources including Action on Pain as they are far removed from the needs of people affected by chronic pain and those who strive to treat them.