After three years in the making, the department of pain management at the North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust has launched an online service to help reach more patients.

It’s an extension of the current offering to patients served by Peterborough City, Hinchingbrooke and Stamford and Rutland Hospitals.

People referred to the department can benefit from a multi-disciplinary team approach, involving medical consultants, specialist nurses, physiotherapy, psychology, occupational therapy and support from administrative staff.

The online option – which is being driven by the therapists in the department, is in addition to face-to-face workshops to meet the needs of patients preferring to access their therapy using technology.

However, some people will always prefer an in-person option, so face to face workshops will also continue.

The new, convenient virtual sessions are designed to meet the needs of many more patients referred to the service and forms part of a service delivery improvement.

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Dr Sarah Ronaghan, consultant clinical osychologist, explained: “As part of our patient pathway, patients can attend information sessions and workshops to learn about the science of chronic/persistent pain and strategies to help them self-manage.

"They also get the opportunity to meet and learn from other patients living with pain.”

“In 2020 we felt strongly that we could be offering this opportunity to patients online, however, there have been many hurdles to overcome since September 2020 when we started the ball rolling.”

“The need for virtual support has been growing since then, with patients being less willing to attend in person appointments for a variety of reasons.

"This initiative sits well within the NHS Long Term Plan about using digital technologies to enable people to seek health information and support online."

The workshops will be run via MS Teams meeting.

Dr Ronaghan added: “In the absence of an online facility, and patients not wanting to (or not being able to during the pandemic) attend face to face workshops, we had been sending patients written material to work through themselves.”

“Following an evaluation of patients who opt for this 'self-guided' pathway, around 88 per cent of patients have dropped out so it was essential we looked at ways to improve patient engagement.

“The ‘virtual’ alternative shows the power of offering patients a learning environment facilitated by clinicians and attended by other patients who live in pain.

“It's early days and great to be able to use technology to deliver healthcare in a green and cost-efficient manner that supports patients to access services in such a convenient way.”

The Trust said, it will continue to monitor the feedback from patients on this new medium to adapt to changes accordingly and make improvements if needed.