It is now five years since the Scottish Government recognised chronic pain as a condition in its own right. For those with chronic pain, either as an individual, as a family member or carer, we know that the condition has a profound effect on their day to day quality of life.
I am pleased that we've made progress in our Scottish chronic pain services, but I'm quite clear there is more to do. We have developed a Scottish Service Model for Chronic Pain, which sets out the sort of service we want people to have. The model intends to address many of the concerns highlighted in the 2007 report "Getting to GRIPS with chronic pain in Scotland". Whilst we know there is some improvement in service provision we also know variation persists, something I want to see improved. To help with this, funding for all NHS Boards to establish service improvement groups has now been approved by Scottish Government. These groups are led by healthcare staff and managers and importantly include patients who want to see improvements in their local services. We have asked that patients are involved in these groups, so that services can take account of and include their views.
But, there's more that the Scottish Government can do and one area where I have made a clear commitment to do this is to ensure Scotland has its first specialist residential chronic pain service.
Currently, people who need this, and we recognise some can't even make the journey so they could benefit, go to the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases in Bath, where they get specialist treatment and residential accommodation over a 2 - 4 week period.
As I pledged at the Parliamentary debate on Chronic Pain Services on 29 May this year, the Scottish Government intend to address this by ensuring we have this type of service available in Scotland. I am very heartened that this was backed unanimously by the Parliament.
In the debate Mr Matheson, Minister for Public Health, and I highlighted there are a number of ways the service could be delivered. Various options are set out for you to consider in this consultation paper. To help inform a decision on the most appropriate one I am seeking a wide range of views from patients, their families, carers, clinicians and other stakeholders. None of the options presented are mutually exclusive and whichever one or combination is selected we will ensure that the service is accessible throughout Scotland, including for those living in remote and rural areas, as well as large towns.
Some of you will know that we launched the consultation in July, however we recognised from early feedback that the consultation document was not as clear as we would like. As I place such importance on having this service in Scotland I asked that the document and respondent form be redrafted to take account of the helpful feedback we received.
It is unfortunate that this will mean the timescales for a decision will be delayed but I really do want people with an interest to respond. We will also be arranging some events in different parts of the country to ensure we try and reach as many people as possible.
I therefore look forward to hearing your views on the options in this paper, or indeed, if there are others that you think should be considered we are keen to hear about these as well.
Alex Neil MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing
Email: Alan Burns