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Community sessions help reduce waiting times for patients managing pain

Anna, Matt and Emma stood in front of a screen

People can get support and advice around managing their pain more quickly thanks to education sessions set up closer to their homes.

The health board’s persistent pain service has worked with some of Swansea Bay’s Local Cluster Collaboratives (LCCs) so they can provide these sessions in the community – avoiding a long wait.

Previously, the pain service would have offered one-to-one sessions to patients where they could learn about pain management and the support available to them.

But new group sessions, supported by the LCCs, allow even more patients to be seen.

This has reduced the waiting time for patients from 83 weeks post-Covid for an initial appointment, to 18 weeks for a one-to-one appointment or four to six weeks for a cluster information group session.

Pictured: Specialist nurse Anna Bilton, physiotherapist Matt Webb and persistent pain service lead Emma Preece.

The group sessions were introduced following support from Bay Health LCC and City Health LCC, which both funded the service to set up its sessions.

Initially they were held in Killay Parish church hall for Bay Health LCC patients and the YMCA in Swansea city centre for City Health LCC patients, before being relocated in the Waterfront Church in SA1.

LCCs work together to pool resources and share best practice to help people remain fit and healthy, and to improve the way they are cared for if they do become unwell.

Wherever possible, they try to accomplish this in the heart of local communities, sparing people the trouble of having to travel to hospitals or central clinics.

The sessions have since expanded to Llwchwr LCC held at Bont Elim Church, in Pontarddulais, as well as Penderi LCC in Tesco Extra Fforestfach’s community room, with sessions due to start in Cwmtawe LCC soon.

Sessions also run from Port Talbot Resource Centre for patients within Afan, Neath and Upper Valleys LCCs.

Emma Preece, service lead for persistent pain, said: “The appointments were previously one-to-one where each staff member would on average see three patients in a clinic session.

“Whereas now, with the education sessions, we have two members of staff seeing 20 to 25 patients in a two-hour slot.

“It frees up the time for the team to carry out the one-to-one appointments and we also get to see so many more patients now within the clusters.

“We found that a lot of patients were being referred to our service, but they were unsure why and also what our service could do for them.

“The education sessions are for patients who have been referred to our service so they can be given information about what we do, how we can support them and how they can be involved in making decisions about their care.

“They are then given the option to opt into what they feel is most individually suited to them within our service.

“This could be one-to-one therapies, including physiotherapy, psychology and occupational therapy. We also offer medication reviews, injections and pain management programmes.

“Patients can then book an appointment for the support they feel will be the most beneficial for them.”

While the waiting times for patients has reduced, the overall attendance rate for appointments has also improved.

“The attendance rate in the service has really improved for patients coming in for one-to-one appointments because they are engaged and understand what they can expect from us,” Emma added.

Anna Bilton is the specialist nurse who works within the team providing the cluster information sessions and one-to-one appointments.

She said the cluster-based approach had helped streamline the service and make it more efficient for patients, bringing their care closer to home.

“They feel like they know a lot more about our service and the options that are available to them,” Anna said.

“By attending the education session, the people that come to the appointments have got an idea of the type of support they would like.

“When we run the one-to-one clinics, our time is used effectively because the patients have opted in to attend and they know what they have opted in for.

“It has massively helped to streamline things for our team in order to support patients earlier in their experience.

“For us as a team, it was about being able to see our patients and provide a service in as timely way as possible and utilise the resources we have to help get patients in front of the correct clinician to support them.”

Dr Nicola Jones, Bay Health LCC lead, said: “We are very pleased to be able to work with such an innovative persistent pain team.

“They have not only reduced painful waiting times for our patients, they also offer an array of holistic therapeutic options and educational sessions to help people manage their pain in a sustainable way.”

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