Working with patients as equal partners to improve chronic pain management

February 3, 2023

Natasha Callender, Senior Project Manager and Medicines Workstream Lead at the HIN, writes about how we are using co-design to expand our work to improve chronic pain management and reduce harm from opioids.

Improving chronic pain management by reducing harm from opioids is a priority for the NHS. That is why in October 2022 we launched a Quality Improvement Collaborative, in response to the NHS England Medication Safety Improvement Programme (MedSIP) workstream. The Collaborative is helping to reduce harm from opioids by speeding up the adoption of innovative harm prevention initiatives and improving care of people living with chronic pain across south London. By providing participants with expert clinical advice and QI support, we are helping them to become Opioid Stewards within their practice, Primary Care Network or Trust.

In October 2022, the HIN’s Ayo Chike-Michael, Senior Project Manager in Patient Safety and Experience, wrote about the Collaborative in more detail, including the complexity of pain management and the need to enable patients as key partners. We are now taking this one step further with a chronic pain experience-based co-design (EBCD) project with patients and clinicians across south London.

Clinicians who work with people living with chronic pain know that the best way for them to reach their goals is for clinician and patient to work in true partnership. A person with pain is the expert on their life, what is important for them, how pain affects these and what types of treatments and solutions suits them best. It’s also the most rewarding way to enable people to most effectively manage their pain.

- Natasha Curran, Medical Director at the Health Innovation Network and Consultant in Pain Medicine, University College London Hospitals

NHS England's statutory guidance for working in partnership with people and communities states that people with ‘lived experience’ are often best placed to advise on what support and services will make a positive difference to their lives. This is particularly true for patients living with long-term conditions that require a multifaceted approach to managing conditions such as chronic pain. You can find out more about the HIN’s commitment to involving people with lived experience in our Involvement Strategy.

Our new EBCD project aims to make the most out of chronic pain management improvement activities and ensure that services are responsive to patients’ wishes. The project will involve up to 10 people with lived experience of chronic pain and up to 10 health and care professionals. Participants will be able to take part through a range of online and in-person methods, including one-to-one interviews, feedback events and group co-design sessions. We will use small working groups who will be guided by professionals such as GPs, pharmacists and physiotherapists.

Experience-based co-design (EBCD) involves patients and staff working together throughout a project, so we can focus on what it is most important to improve services. I have found it to be an inspiring and energising approach to tackling complex challenges in the NHS.

- Catherine Dale, Programme Director for Insights and Patient Safety and Trustee for The Point of Care Foundation

Through this project we aim to identify areas for service improvement based on first-hand, real-life experiences of day-to-day pain management. This will help to inform what new services and care pathways could be established, together in partnership. This will feed into the National Patient Safety Improvement Programme (NatPatSIP)’s priority of enhancing chronic pain management. We hope that clinicians and patients will work together to make small yet meaningful improvements to existing care.

You can see the timeline for this project below. There are a range of opportunities for both patients and staff to feed in. If you are interested please contact Natasha Callender.

At the HIN we aspire to be partners with people as we believe that, by sharing their insights and knowledge, people with lived experience of health and social care services can help us to improve health and social care. Involvement of people with lived experience helps us focus on the needs of service users whilst also addressing inequalities and ensuring better outcomes.
– Sophie Lowry, Implementation and Involvement Manager at the Health Innovation Network




Project interviews

Weeks starting 6 and 16 February 2023 (virtual/online)

Staff feedback event

Wednesday 15 March 2023 (virtual/online)

2 - 4.30pm

Patient feedback event

Thursday 23 March 2023 (virtual/online)

2 - 5.30pm

Joint patient-staff feedback event

Thursday 30 March 2023 (in person/face to face)

2 - 4.30pm

Group co-design sessions

Tuesday 25 April 2023 (virtual/online)

2 - 4.30pm


Tuesday 16 May 2023 (virtual/online)

2 - 4.30pm


Tuesday 6 June 2023 (virtual/online)

2 - 4.30pm


Tuesday 27 June 2023 (virtual/online)

2 - 4.30pm

Celebration event

Thursday 13 July 2023 (Time and venue to be confirmed)

This project is featured in our Annual Report 2022/23.

Find out more

For more information, please get in touch with Natasha Callender, Senior Project Manager for Patient Safety and Experience.

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