New chronic pain resources for primary care

Fiona Blyth
Professor Fiona Blyth

The Prevention Centre has launched three new resources Primary Health Networks (PHNs) to improve their knowledge about the opportunities for prevention and management of chronic pain.

Resources include a map of chronic pain initiatives that are currently being implemented by other PHNs, a comprehensive guide to all the online and accessible chronic pain initiatives and resources currently available to primary care in Australia, and a podcast for consumers explaining the difference between acute and chronic pain.

The tools have been developed as part of our MRFF-funded project on preventing and better managing  chronic pain in primary care.

Project lead Professor Fiona Blyth said PHNs could use the resources to select and implement initiatives that are suitable to their local context.

“PHNs may be able to improve the prevention and management of chronic pain without the need to develop new programs and resources,” Professor Blyth said.

“The information in this guide will also be useful to primary care providers and consumers, so PHNs are encouraged to distribute the guide to their networks.”

Chronic pain affects one in five Australians and represents a significant burden, costing an estimated $34 billion each year. A key issue is access to effective pain assessment, prevention, self-management and non-pharmacological pain management services.

The Prevention Centre project is focusing on PHNs because they are important levers as commissioning bodies and supporters of primary care services, and there are many opportunities for them to improve the prevention of chronic pain.

The resources were developed after consultation with representatives from 26 PHNs, which found that PHNs had poor awareness of chronic pain initiatives implemented by other PHNs. Most rated their knowledge of chronic pain initiatives related to the prevention or management of chronic pain as 3 or less out of 10.

PHNs indicated a strong interest in a map of the current PHN chronic pain initiatives. The mapping tool provides them with an overview of the number and distribution of PHNs implementing specific types of chronic pain initiatives. It also includes a description of each initiative, enablers to implementation, links to relevant websites, and any supporting evaluation reports to help PHNs in their planning.

The tool shows that chronic pain initiatives are implemented in all states and territories and in a range of metropolitan and regional PHNs.

Approximately 90% of PHNs are implementing chronic pain initiatives aiming to upskill health professionals and ensure quality improvement. About half are implementing chronic pain initiatives relating to improving access to multidisciplinary care and improving consumer health literacy and care navigation.

Following the consultation, the research team held a workshop attended by 28 PHN representatives, at which they presented case studies of chronic pain initiatives and discussed enablers for their implementation. Speakers emphasised the importance of good implementation and evaluation.

The next phase of the project will focus on supporting PHNs with the implementation and evaluation of their chronic pain initiatives. The team will also provide future opportunities for PHNs to come together and support each other in the implementation and evaluation of chronic pain initiatives.