Guest Blog by Neil Betteridge, co-chair, Chronic Pain Policy Coalition (CPPC)
As a former Chair of ARMA, it’s a great pleasure to be invited to write a piece for this month’s newsletter. Indeed, looking back to my seven years on the board, it is quite something to recall that the organisation entered the 21st century still called BLAR: the British League Against Rheumatism.
Apart from the name, much has changed in the world of rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases since then, most of it for the better in my view. But one of the things about all 200 or so of these conditions that remains a huge challenge is the widespread prevalence of chronic pain. It is for this reason that, whilst CEO of Arthritis Care, I joined the Executive of the Chronic Pain Policy Coalition (CPPC), with whom I still serve, now as Co-Chair (together with Dr Martin Johnson, RCGP lead on chronic pain). ARMA and several of its members are affiliate members of the Coalition, and I strongly believe we should be working in tandem like this, given that around 70% of chronic pain is rooted in this family of disorders.
For those unfamiliar with our work, the name is pretty much self-explanatory. The focus is on the needs of people with long term, persistent pain; we operate exclusively in the policy domain; and our structure is that we are an umbrella body bringing together organisations that are stakeholders in chronic pain, be they voluntary sector or ‘patient’ groups, clinicians or other health professional bodies such as physios and occupational therapists.
Work is currently one of the Coalition’s top priorities. With the current interest in this area in England from the Dept. for Work and Pensions and the Dept. of Health, we see this as an opportunity to press for positive changes for people with any form of chronic pain who could be better supported in their efforts to get – or keep – a job suitable to their needs and wishes.
To facilitate views on this, during the recent consultation process on the Green Paper ‘Improving Lives: Work, Health and Disability’, the CPPC organised a roundtable chaired by Lord Luce. Officials from relevant government departments had the opportunity to hear the views of health care professionals and patient representatives from the chronic pain community, and the issues raised informed our formal written response.
The key issues to emerge were: highlighting the importance of work for the everyday lives of those with chronic pain; stressing the importance of empowerment, and of integrated support for people with chronic pain; and encouraging the provision of localised information and other support such as self-management for those living with chronic pain, in order that GPs can direct their patients to these resources in a timely way.
More information on this, and the work of the CPPC overall, is available at www.policyconnect.org.uk/cppc/.
Going forward, we will shortly be conducting policy work into the ways in which opioids are currently prescribed. If any ARMA members are interested in this topic and would like to engage with our work in this area, please contact our Manager Katherine Perry via firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is free to become an affiliate member of the CPPC so if you wish your organisation to lend its name to the fight against the invisible epidemic that is chronic pain, please join us.