New programme to manage joint pain with exercise wins award after helping 20,000 people

Katherine Johnston (15 October, 2020)

Musculoskeletal-related pain is the second most common reason for GP visits

39618An escape pain session pre- COVID-19

A new exercise programme created by south London’s Health Improvement Network has helped almost 20,000 people manage chronic pain – without extra medication.

ESCAPE-pain offers face-to-face and online exercises for people suffering with long-term joint pain. The rehabilitation programme is based around a progressive exercise regime tailored to each person. 

It has now been rolled out nationally and, before the pandemic, had helped 19,300 people across 295 sites to self-manage arthritic pain. 

Musculoskeletal-related pain is the second most common reason for GP visits and accounts for approximately 20-30 per cent of all GP consultations in the UK. 

On top of reducing productivity at work, it also impacts on patients’ mental health and ability to do day-to-day tasks and keep fit and healthy.

The project has been so successful it won ‘MSK Initiative of the year’ at the Health Service Journal Value Awards.

Ann, 68, who says she is no longer in constant pain after starting the programme, said: “Osteoarthritis was really impacting on my daily life as I had to ask for help to do everyday tasks around the home. 

“My life has significantly changed since I completed the course and I’ve continued to do the exercises and now I no longer have any pain and I live a very active life.”

The project was created by Professor Mike Hurley. A joint pain specialist, he believes this kind of intervention could help reduce reliance on strong painkillers. 

“The judges were clearly impressed with the general ethos of the programme about self-management, its effectiveness and benefits that it brings to individuals and the healthcare system as a whole,” he said. 

“We hope the award gives a boost to ESCAPE-pain that we believe can make a major contribution to the post-Covid-19 NHS ‘reset’. 

Another project highlighted is Guy’s and St Thomas’ Youth Empowerment Skills (YES) programme, which supports people with Type 1 diabetes aged fourteen to nineteen, which won the HSJ Diabetes Care Initiative of the Year award.

Dr Dulmini Kariyawasam, a consultant at Guy’s and St.Thomas’ Foundation Trust, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been named as the winners in the Diabetes Care Initiative of the Year 2020.

“The positive impact of this award will help to create a long-lasting legacy and bolster our efforts to expand the YES programme across London giving every young person living with Type 1 diabetes in London access to the programme.” 

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