The importance of social connections in a peer support group for chronic pain

14 December 2018

CLAHRC West researchers have visited six follow-on groups for people with chronic pain who have finished self-management programmes (SMPs) at North Bristol NHS Trust.

The team interviewed 45 people, including a range of clinical staff involved in running SMPs, patient tutor volunteers and patients, including those who have attended follow-on groups, and those who haven’t.

The team have found that the ongoing social connections that follow-on groups can enable, can be really important to some people:

“I think it’s helped a lot because I don’t feel on my own anymore”

“We’ve all got completely different pains and illnesses, but we understand each other, we don’t judge…”

Chronic pain affects more than two-fifths of the UK population. It can impact a person’s mobility and independence, and lead to depression. Group pain management or SMPs can help people manage the effects that pain has on their daily life and improve how they cope with it. These two to three month programmes have been shown to have good results, but improvements can be harder to sustain over a longer period of time after they’ve finished.

North Bristol NHS Trust are tackling this problem with their follow-on peer support groups for people once they’ve finished their SMP. The idea for the groups came from a group of patients and clinicians. Trust volunteer patient tutors and clinicians are working in collaboration with NIHR CLAHRC West researchers to evaluate the impact of these follow-on groups.

At the moment the researchers are busy analysing results and have held a couple of meetings with patients to share initial findings and discuss how the results can be used to develop these groups.