Thursday, September 21, 2023

New campaign highlights impact of chronic pain in Ireland

A new campaign will highlight the lack of services available to people experiencing chronic pain in Ireland, and the action needed to address the crisis.

With Pain Awareness Month taking place this September, Chronic Pain Ireland has launched its ‘Waking up to Pain’ campaign which aims to show the reality of the personal, economic and social effects that chronic pain has here.

Up to one in three adults in Ireland experience chronic pain, according to a University of Galway study.

However, sufferers often battle to have their condition understood. Research by the Irish Pain Society found that 42 per cent of people living in Ireland with chronic pain think others doubt the existence of their pain, even though 21 per cent said their pain was so intense they wanted to die.

According to the Society, Ireland has just 27 dedicated pain consultants operating across the public system, meaning that 41 per cent of patients are currently waiting more than 12 months for their first appointment with a chronic pain specialist, while 18 per cent are waiting the same length of time for their first treatment.

“There are very good treatment pathways for cancer – there’s a lot of money put into cancer treatment. There is very little equivalent budgeting for pain clinics,” Dr Hugh Gallagher, Consultant in chronic pain and anaesthesia in St Vincent’s University Hospital and Dean of the Faculty of Pain Medicine, College of Anaesthetists of Ireland, told IMT.

The Faculty has submitted a Model of Care strategy document to the HSE to address the shortcomings they see in the treatment of patients with chronic pain.

The model outlines three tiers of pain treatment – primary care, based in the community and involving pain specialists in earlier intervention; secondary care involving a multidisciplinary hospital team, and tertiary care consisting of a specialist centre where more complex conditions could be referred.

“It’s a vision rather than an actuality. We’re constantly reminded of how much the health budgets are overrun every year. And no-one is going to deny a child or an adult cancer treatment, so pain will never be first in the queue for resources to be allocated,” Dr Gallagher added.

However, without additional funding, the financial of chronic pain on the country is significant. Due to lost productivity and existing healthcare costs, the Irish Pain Society estimates that chronic pain costs the Irish economy around €4.7 billion per year, more than 2.5 per cent of GDP.

This month Chronic Pain Ireland will host a series of events and activities to raise awareness about the challenges faced by people living with chronic pain.

Events include a workshop on the importance of sleep in dealing with pain, a chronic pain self-management course, and the HSE’s ‘Living Well with Chronic Pain’ programme.

“With our campaign for Pain Awareness Month, we hope people will realise the reality of what it’s like for people in Ireland who wake up with chronic pain every day and can’t access the care they need to improve their quality of life and the lives of their loved ones,” Chair of Chronic Pain Ireland, Martina Phelan, said.

“Pain is invisible and people living with chronic pain often tell us they don’t feel believed by family, employers and healthcare professionals. This leaves them feeling isolated and helpless. Chronic Pain Ireland supports our members by letting them know they are not alone, there are people who understand what they are going through and who will provide support and knowledge to help them to improve their quality of life even while they are waiting for access to the healthcare they need.”

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