Another year starts as Action on Pain celebrates its 18th birthday. Looking back over the years we have come a long way from those early days of just a telephone in the corner of a lounge! Today sees PainLine handling over 94000 calls, over 1000000 of our booklets have been issued and our Mobile Information Unit has covered over 30000 miles. In addition we have been involved in numerous campaigns and continue to lobby hard on behalf of people affected by chronic pain. We have gained an enviable reputation for our “down to earth, tell it as it is approach” which has enabled many people affected by chronic pain to move forward and really challenge their pain. In short Action on Pain has “come of age” and is still totally volunteer run. It has been a tremendous journey and we look forward to the years ahead.

In stark contrast though we must be open and honest about the state of chronic pain services across the United Kingdom. We warmly applaud the majority of staff that operate the NHS pain clinics often under immense pressure from increasing patient numbers and budget cuts that often see pain services as the “cinderella” part of the NHS when it comes to funding. Yet is also has to be said that amongst these staff there are those who put self-gain before patients which has compromised the potential to deliver services where they are really needed. Action on Pain has been at the forefront of challenging these people which has in some cases ensured that these essential services have been introduced. We will continue to do so!

Of serious concern must be the inability of the various Care Commissioning Groups(CCG) to come up with a coherent plan that ensures that which ever CCG area a person with chronic pain lives in there is the same access and availability of treatment for their chronic pain. As it stands it is a real lottery as to what is available with evidence that some CCGs in the same county have different policies which makes little sense. Does the impact of your chronic pain alter as you cross various county borders- of course not so it is surely time the CCGs acted to resolve this unacceptable situation.

In conclusion it has to be said that there has been no improvement in availability of NHS chronic pain services during the past 18 years. Yes there has been lots of talk, hundreds if not thousands of meetings, grandiose schemes that promise much yet deliver seat warming talking shops. Yet firmly at the bottom of the pile remains those people affected by chronic pain of which there are millions across the UK.  It is surely time that these folks are taken notice of, that access to treatment for their chronic pain becomes a priority in the NHS, that there are open and fair assessments by the DWP that do not create fear amongst people who have a condition that has a major impact on their daily life. Action on Pain firmly supports the move to effectively use limited resources however this must be done with compassion and understanding as well as generating a positive outcome for all concerned. We shall be watching very closely and speaking out in support of people affected by chronic pain.