Palliative pain management programme St Joseph’s Hospice

  • Led by St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney, in partnership with the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London.
  • Aimed to empower palliative care patients with chronic pain to effectively manage their pain themselves.
  • Adapted a hospital-based pain management programme for the hospice setting, providing group and individual training sessions from specialist physiotherapy, clinical psychology and multidisciplinary palliative care professionals.
  • Project ran from September 2016 to November 2017.

Pain management programmes (PMPs) combine physical and psychological approaches to help people to take control of their pain. This project adapted a hospital-based PMP for adults at St Joseph’s Hospice with life-limiting conditions and chronic pain. The aim was to give these palliative care patients – who would ordinarily be excluded from PMPs in mainstream services – the skills and understanding to effectively manage their pain themselves.

Patients attended a six-week group programme or a series of four individual sessions on pain management principles and strategies, delivered by specialist physiotherapy, clinical psychology and multidisciplinary palliative care professionals. 

Results were evaluated in partnership with specialist palliative care researchers at the Cicely Saunders Institute, King’s College London. Unfortunately, the innovation was limited by the small number of referrals and high drop-out rates – 33 patients were referred and just 14 completed the programme. 

Although biological, psychological and social health outcomes did not improve, feedback from patients who completed the programme was overwhelmingly positive, with the majority rating it as ‘excellent’ and ‘useful’. Patients also benefited from the motivational and emotional support of their group, and many achieved their own meaningful goals. 

Although this pilot project successfully raised awareness of holistic pain management and complex pain at St Joseph’s, it was not able to demonstrate sustainability due to the high patient-to-professional ratio, difficulty recruiting and retaining patients and inconclusive data. However, the valuable learning and experience gained are being used to develop a new, more efficient symptom management group that will incorporate elements of the PMP and be responsive to patient feedback.

Contact information

For more information about this project, please  Caroline Quilty, Therapies Services Manager, St Joseph’s Hospice, London.

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