Rhetoric and reality on acute pain services in the UK: a national postal questionnaire survey

A E Powell, H T O Davies, J Bannister, W A Macrae

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    74 Citations (Scopus)


    Background. The study aimed to explore the extent to which NHS acute pain services (APSs) have been established in accordance with national guidance, and to assess the degree to which clinicians in acute pain management believe that these services are fulfilling their role.

    Methods. A postal questionnaire survey addressed to the head of the acute pain service was sent to 403 National Health Service hospitals each carrying out more than 1000 operative procedures a year.

    Results. Completed questionnaires were received from 81% (325) of the hospitals, of which 83% (270) had an established acute pain service. Most of these (86%) described their service as Monday-Friday with a reduced service at other times; only 5% described their service as covering 24 hours, 7 days a week. In the majority of hospitals (68%), the on-call anaesthetist was the sole provider of out of hours services. Services were categorized by respondents as thriving (30%), struggling to manage (52%) or non-existent (17%). There was widespread agreement (greater than or equal to85%) on the principles that should underpin acute pain services, and similar agreement on the need for better organizational approaches (95%) rather than new treatments and delivery techniques (19%).

    Conclusions. More than a decade since the 1990 report Pain after Surgery, national coverage of comprehensive acute pain services is still far from being achieved. Despite wide consensus about the problems, concrete solutions are proving hard to implement. There is strong support for a two-fold response: securing greater political commitment to pain services and using organizational approaches to address current deficits.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)689-693
    Number of pages5
    JournalBritish Journal of Anaesthesia
    Publication statusPublished - May 2004


    • pain, acute pain services
    • pain, organizational approaches
    • pain, postoperative pain management


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