Joint Statement Australian Medicare Local Alliance and Painaustralia

Joint Statement Australian Medicare Local Alliance and Painaustralia

24 April 2013

The Federal Government is being urged to add pain to its list of national health priorities following a national roundtable on pain prevention and management.

Chronic pain should also be identified as a chronic disease and managed within a chronic and complex disease framework, according to the AML Alliance and Painaustralia.

AML Alliance Chair Dr Arn Sprogis said the complexity and persistence of chronic pain needs a multidisciplinary, community based approach and its Australias 61 Medicare Locals which are ideally placed to coordinate multidisciplinary services in the community to treat people living with pain.

There is currently no dedicated funding for pain management in this country, Dr Sprogis said.

The flexible funding through Medicare Locals helps to some extent to resource the roll-out of pain programs but more is needed including additional work that needs to be done to determine financing models that effectively support and enable the provision of multidisciplinary care, Dr Sprogis said.

This is about keeping people well and out of hospital and potentially reducing the cost burden of this condition which was calculated at $34 billion a year in 2007, in terms of productivity loss, health care costs and welfare costs, he said.

Painaustralias CEO Lesley Brydon said while there are already a range of good services and initiatives out there, they are patchy and need to be better coordinated to avoid duplication and to fill gaps.

There are also a range of useful resources available for health professionals and consumers but this need to be collated through a central national web-based clearing house, best coordinated and managed through Painaustralia with appropriate resourcing, Ms Brydon said.

With one in five people overall (including children and adolescents) living with pain, and one in three people aged over 65 living with pain, there is a need for improved community based pain prevention programs. Right now, 40% of people between 45 and 64 who are forced to retire from the workforce, do so because of chronic pain, in particular arthritis and back problems. Many of these people end up on welfare, she said.

By improving care models and incorporating better training for the frontline health workforce in pain prevention, the adverse economic, social and health impacts associated with this condition can be reduced.

An example of improvements can be found with the STEPS program. This multidisciplinary, community-based pain management program has reduced waiting times for pain management from over 2 years to 6 weeks and has also led to a 75% reduction in people going to hospital for pain. With appropriate resourcing, programs like these could be made available in all communities across Australia. Ms Brydon said.