Has the Minister considered using independent pain management clinics to assist with the current patient backlog?
During the Covid-19 pandemic, services have reviewed the way in which they provide treatment and support to maximise the protection afforded to patients, to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus and to adhere to the current guidelines on social distancing. This has included the use of technology, with the majority of outpatient appointments being held virtually, either via video call or telephone.
Consultants have also been asked to go through their waiting lists and to risk stratify and prioritise each patient, so that when it is possible to safely reintroduce relevant surgery, those with most urgent need are seen first. The work is being clinically led, which adds to the level of risk assessment.
Those living with pain requiring support can contact services and discuss the best way to continue to access their treatment. This may include personal programmes via online or written advice for patients to undertake at home or remotely (phone or video consultation). Face to face treatment would be provided where there is an urgent clinical need following an assessment.
My officials liaised with pain services in health boards towards the end of 2020 and are meeting with pain clinicians in April 2021. They will consider the ongoing effect on services and seek to strengthen the self-management approaches provided to those living with long term pain conditions. This will include access to mental health services as well as physical and medical support provided.
It will be for health boards to determine the specific approach to pain management based on their population need. We have not been informed of any plans to address pain services via independent clinics at this stage.
We have not specifically allocated additional funding for pain management clinics in the 2021-22 budget, but we have allocated an additional £385m funding for the NHS next year, as well as additional funding for Covid response and recovery. It will be for local health boards to determine the application of their discretionary funding to pain management in their 2021-22 plans.
Pain treatment and management can be provided via multidisciplinary teams who provide expert knowledge, including from anaesthetists, psychologists, pharmacists, nurses and more. The Welsh Government does not hold figures for staff involved in the management of pain.
Responsibility for workforce planning is with health boards and trusts as they are best placed to ensure the services they plan are matched to peoples’ needs – both now and in the future. In October, the Minister for Health and Social Services launched the Health Education and Improvement Wales and Social Care Wales workforce strategy to ensure the future sustainability of the health and care workforce in Wales.
The Welsh Government published guidance for the NHS and those living with persistent pain in April 2019. This guidance promotes a range of support and treatment and emphasises the importance of shared decision-making, safety reducing ineffective medications and the need for constructive conversations around support and treatment. A copy can be found here: https://gov.wales/people-experiencing-persistent-pain-guidance
On 22 March we published Health and Social Care in Wales COVID 19: Looking Forward. This sets out our ambitious but realistic approach to building back our health and social care system in Wales.