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Reimagining pain care for our NHS

February 2022

We are collaborating with Dr Jackie Walumbe, a doctoral research fellow in global public health at the University of Oxford, whose PhD investigates the gap between current pain management practices in the NHS and the wider ‘socio-material entanglements and relational aspects of living with chronic pain’.

‘Silent epidemic’ of chronic pain affects nearly 28 million people in the UK

Jackie’s research asks three questions:

  1. How patients are coping without the support of a specialist service and what they do to help themselves
  2. How health professionals do (or perhaps don’t) support patients who drop out or who are not able to attend pain management programmes
  3. What is happening to support self-management for people with chronic pain in policy.

Through workshops and creative research we aim to co-design new ways of communicating pain care within the NHS and consider how society might engage with the complex set of issues that underpin pain from a personal and cultural perspective:

  • Many of us are excluded from (or drop out of) NHS pain management services
  • We need to support each other through better policy and practice
  • We don’t understand or practise self-management of chronic pain in one way:
  • We have multiple concepts of pain
  • We bypass formal approaches to pain management
  • We deal with pain through our changing relationships with (our bodies), other people, places, objects (and practices & activities)
  • Contemporary ways of discussing pain are based on ‘neoliberal’ ‘personal responsibility’ and ‘cost/benefit analysis’ approaches
  • We need a different way of thinking about access to pain care services
  • spread investment beyond traditional providers
  • extend support to non-healthcare settings
  • attend more closely to the entanglements and relational aspects of living with chronic pain

We’ll be running workshops with patients and practitioners to understand what works and what doesn’t work both within the NHS and in wider society and use this understanding and Jackie’s deep research to reimagine pain care from a human centred perspective.

Are you examining global challenges that would benefit from critical and thoughtful design research? Do get in touch