A new study published in BMC Health Services Research highlights the challenges people with fibromyalgia face accessing appropriate healthcare in the UK. The research, conducted by Wilson et al. as part of the PACFiND programme, surveyed over 2000 NHS professionals and people with fibromyalgia about diagnosis, treatment, and gaps in services.
The results found inconsistencies in how fibromyalgia is diagnosed among NHS professionals. Only 42% of surveyed clinicians diagnosed fibromyalgia themselves, with the rest referring to specialists like rheumatologists. However, the long waits to see specialists can delay initiation of treatment.
Among professionals diagnosing fibromyalgia, over a quarter relied solely on clinical opinion rather than using diagnostic criteria tools. This diagnostic uncertainty can negatively impact patients.
Once diagnosed, education and medication were the mainstays of NHS treatment. Yet inappropriate or excessive use of pain medications was highlighted as problematic by both patients and professionals.
Referrals for therapies like physiotherapy, psychology and exercise programmes were common, but access was frequently limited by under-resourced, oversubscribed services and restrictive policies.
The biggest gaps identified were the lack of available local services, long wait times, and inadequate knowledge among many NHS staff about assessing and managing fibromyalgia.
People with fibromyalgia reported turning to non-NHS treatments like massage and support groups to help manage their condition. But these services can be costly and difficult to access long-term.
The study concludes that substantial problems exist across the NHS in the availability and integration of services for people with fibromyalgia. There is an urgent need to design and implement holistic care pathways that offer timely diagnosis, appropriate treatment tailored to individual needs, and ongoing support for self-management.
Collaborative care spanning primary, secondary and community services will be essential to better outcomes for those living with fibromyalgia in the UK.
The need for faster more efficient ways for people sufferring Fibro to go from diagnosis and into treatments that can be self administered cheaply at home is pretty clear.
The NHS does a great job up top a point, but is seemingly overwhelmed at every juncture.
Paincation aims to address some of the issues written above, and to break the cycle of chronic pain that leads to anxiety and depression and isolation, in turn freeing up the NHS further.