Patchy access to alternative pain treatment needs to be addressed ‘urgently’ for new guidelines to benefit patients, says RCGP

Responding to the publication of new clinical guidelines for chronic primary pain, Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

"Pain can cause untold misery for patients and their families.

"As GPs, we want to be able to help patients manage their pain and live as normal a life as possible, but chronic primary pain - pain with no known underlying cause - can be challenging to manage in general practice, and the College has been calling for guidelines to address this for some time. It is important to note that all forms of chronic pain normally have persisted for three months or more for the diagnosis to have been made; pain of a shorter duration may need different treatment.

"GPs will always take a holistic approach to delivering care, considering physical, psychological and social factors when making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan in partnership with our patients, so the patient-centred approach to this guideline is welcome.

"We also understand the move away from a pharmacological option to treating chronic primary pain to a focus on physical and psychological therapies that we know can benefit people in pain. However, access to these therapies can be patchy at a community level across the country, so this needs to be addressed urgently, if these new guidelines are to make a genuine difference to the lives of our patients with primary chronic pain.

"It's also key that the guidelines advise against starting drug-therapy for patients who have chronic primary pain - but not to stop medication already being taken, particularly if they report some benefit.

“Patients who have been prescribed medication for their pain should not stop taking medication that has been prescribed to them. If they are concerned, they should discuss this with their doctor at their next medication review, where alternatives to their treatment plan can be discussed.”

Further information

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RCGP Press office – 020 3188 7633/7494/7574
Out of hours: 020 3188 7659

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.