Illnesses and long-term conditions

Chronic pain

Chronic or persistent pain is pain that carries on for longer than 12 weeks despite medication or treatment.

Most people get back to normal after pain following an injury or operation. But sometimes the pain carries on for longer or comes on without any history of an injury or operation.

Chronic pain can also affect people living with other long-term conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • irritable bowel
  • back pain

Chronic pain affects 1 in 5 people in Scotland. We are funding and working with NHSScotland to ensure everyone living with chronic pain is able to access the best possible care and support, and benefit from healthcare services that are safe, effective and put people at the centre of their care.


In 2014, work was carried out to develop the Scottish Service Model for Chronic Pain.

In 2015 we established the Scottish National Residential Pain Management Programme in Scotland. This residential course provides specialist intervention in Scotland for patients that require intensive support to manage their chronic pain.

In March 2018 we published a guideline on the management of children and young people with chronic pain. The guideline is for clinicians but is also available for patients and their families.

In 2018 we published our quality prescribing strategy for chronic pain: a guide for improvement 2018 to 2021.  

We provided funding from 2014 to 2016 to NHS Boards for service improvements undertaken by Service Improvement Groups (SIGs) /Managed Clinical Networks (MCNs) for Chronic Pain, such as pain clinics, developed in NHS Boards.

We are continuing to work with NHS Boards on the actions they are taking to improve performance, supported by record investment and our reform programme.

The Scottish Access Collaborative hosted three Chronic Pain design workshops during 2018/19 involving clinical and community roles from 10 NHS Scotland Board areas.  A report was published in 2019 and suggested seven areas of focus to help improve outcomes for those who experience persistent pain.  People across the Scottish Chronic Pain community were contacted in early 2020 to gather views about which of the seven areas highlighted in the report should be prioritised, and about aspects of services already working well and what could be improved.  View the report and results of the survey.


We have also funded work at the University of Dundee to improve the breadth, consistency and quality of chronic pain data available. This work will help to develop the necessary high-quality data required to drive improvements to services and reduce waiting times. Scotland is the only part of the UK to routinely publish this data, which is a clear sign of our commitment to making improvements for people living with chronic pain. View the research and specifically the report.

National Advisory Committee for Chronic Pain

We set up the National Advisory Committee for Chronic Pain in 2017 to advise the Scottish Government on chronic pain and inform effective policy development.

More information

Further support information on chronic pain can be found on the NHS inform website. 


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