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Helping through the pain - reducing medication through education

20 Feb 2019 - Press Release

Community NHS services in Stockport are about to lead the way in a groundbreaking new study project to try to reduce the use of morphine-like medications among  patients living with pain.

Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, which runs both community services and Stepping Hill Hospital, has won £55,000 of additional funding from independent charity the Health Foundation to help fund the study.

Nearly eight million people in England, and around 40,000 people in Stockport, have moderate to severe pain, for which some will take opioid medication. The prescribing of opioids for non-cancer pain has increased significantly in the UK, but evidence suggests they are only effective in the short term. Many patients can become tolerant and some develop opioid-induced hyperalgesia, which means increased sensitivity to pain. 

In the worst cases, opioid side effects and withdrawal symptoms can be devastating to patients and their families, yet there is currently very little support and advice for patients wishing to stop taking them.

The new project, known as Reducing Opioids through Supportive Education (ROSE),  is an education and therapy-based group to help patients reduce their opioid intake. Starting in March, it will support community medical and nursing staff working together with pharmacists and GPs to help patients find other ways to ease and cope with their pain. People will learn proven techniques such a pacing, mindfulness and graded physical activity.

Patients will take part in opioid reduction groups led by a specialist nurse and an expert service user.  They will have one-to-one meetings with clinicians to draw up personalised reduction regimes. It will include educational support for patients, an online referral system; text-based follow up and support; and data collection of outcomes to ensure patients are getting the benefit.

A group of 12 patients have been recruited to the project from Archwood Medical Practice, a GP practice serving a population of around 8000 in the Werneth area of Stockport. If the intervention is successful, it will be rolled out across Stockport, which could help between 150 to 300 patients a year. And if the success continues, it could be rolled out across the country.

One of the patients taking part is Charles Bowyer. Charles, 62, from Romiley has been prescribed strong opiate painkillers for over 15 years for his severe joint disease. He knows the drawbacks well, and has been keen to join the study to find better ways to deal with his pain.

The project is part of the Stockport Together partnership, which includes the foundation trust, the council, clinical commissioning group, mental health services and local GPs. It is one of 23 innovative health projects being funded across England by the Health Foundation.  

David Crabtree, a pain management consultant at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust said “Morphine-like medications are very rarely effective for people living with longstanding pain. We have found that coming off them can make patients feel happier, more alert and free of unpleasant side effects; with no change in the pain they have. That’s why it is fantastic that the Health Foundation is funding the ROSE project to help us work with patients to help them manage their pain in other ways. We hope this will be an important step towards improving many people’s lives.”



Anaesthetic consultant David Crabtree
Charles Bowyer, one of the patients taking part in the project

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