Some 40 community pharmacies are taking part in a pain management pilot for patients suffering from osteoarthritis, a local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has said.
The pilot will see pharmacists in Stoke-on-Trent, North Staffordshire and South Staffordshire consult with osteoarthritis patients aged 45 years and over to support their management of joint pain in the hand, hip, knee or foot.
An email sent to community pharmacies on 13 August 2021 from Tania Cork, chief operating officer of North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent LPC, said the pilot aims to “prevent worsening joint health for people with initial musculoskeletal issues” and cut back on the number “of costly interventions”.
The email adds that the pilot outcomes will feed into joint pain research led by Keele University Institute for Primary Care and Health Sciences, which supports the self-management of joint pain in line with National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guidance on osteoarthritis, published in 2014.
The guidance recommends that clinicians “agree individualised self-management strategies” with osteoarthritis patients, including encouraging “positive behavioural changes, such as exercise, weight loss, use of suitable footwear and pacing”.
As part of the pilot, each pharmacy will receive £50 for completing a training course provided by Keele University and then £15 for each patient consultation, either in person or virtually.
Cork told The Pharmaceutical Journal that participating pharmacists will consult with patients “to ensure that they are managing their joint pain correctly, they’re taking medication correctly and they’re using self-care treatments [such as] exercises that will cut down on the impact of osteoarthritis”.
She said that osteoarthritis patients could be referred to participating pharmacies by a GP “but because it’s a pilot, it’s more [likely] going to be the patients just walking in and seeing the pharmacist about some joint pain”.
“If the pilot is successful, we can then start pitching it to the GPs,” she said, adding that there is enough funding for the 40 pharmacies to conduct 16 consultations each.
Cork added that the pilot will run until at least 600 consultations have been carried out, so the outcomes can be studied by Keele University.
Commenting on the pilot, Shantel Irwin, chief executive of the charity Arthritis Action, said: “Research shows that a supported ‘self-management’ approach towards living with arthritis, including managing your exercise, weight, pain and eating healthily, can significantly improve quality of life.
“There are thought to be over 10 million people currently living with some form of arthritis in the UK, making it the most common cause of disability in the UK.”
Joint pain resources
The Pharmaceutical Journal has partnered with GSK to provide free and open resources for pharmacy teams to better serve patients seeking advice for joint pain. In 2018, multidisciplinary experts developed a patient pathway to help manage patients effectively. The launch of the Pharmacy Learning Centre on joint pain aims to build on this initial work, with new resources and activities planned in 2021.