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Chronic pain patients in Moray part of "pioneering" social prescribing health project

By Chris Saunderson

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CHRONIC pain patients in Moray can now access a range of social activities designed to manage their conditions.

Migraine pain can be extremely debilitating.
Migraine pain can be extremely debilitating.

The scheme provides nine free of charge self-management activities, including art and craft therapy, online and in-person exercise classes, hydrotherapy sessions, allotment access, book clubs, walking groups, guided meditations and other social events.

Affa Sair, a local chronic pain charity, has launched the first social prescribing scheme in Scotland.

Along with three medical practices, two in Forres and one in Elgin, the scheme will be assessed to see if the quality of life and pain level improve for those taking part.

Affa Sair (Scots for very sore) is working with the quality improvement and assurance team (QIAT) at NHS Grampian to assess how impactful social prescribing is for chronic pain patients.

This follows a successful application for Section 10 funding to the Scottish Government, designed to assist voluntary organisations in developing social care services.

Funding has also come from the Health and Social Care Alliance.

The scheme is open to patients from the Maryhill practice in Elgin and the Culbin and Varis practices in Forres.

People can ask their GPs for a referral and the scheme is also available to

members of Affa Sair outwith the GP practices.

With the exception of the hydrotherapy sessions, Affa Sair members can simply turn up to the activities without the need to book.

Details and times of the activities are published weekly in the Affa Sair social media streams.

Taking part in social activities can help ease pain and social isolation.
Taking part in social activities can help ease pain and social isolation.

Chronic Pain is defined as continuous long-term pain of more than 12 weeks or, after the time that healing should have occurred after trauma or surgery.

Affa Sair chairman, Chris Bridgeford, who lives in Forres, said: “Social isolation is high on the list of the many problems that come with a life of chronic pain.

"Our scheme shows sufferers how taking part in social activities helps them endure the endless pain by allowing them to concentrate on the activity rather than the pain with new friendships formed along the way.”

Health officials will also monitor whether patients involved need to go to the GP less often and require less medication,.

If the scheme can prove that it saves substantial amounts of money to the NHS, the hope is that it will be expanded across Grampian and other areas.

Since 2015, Affa Sair has provided a community forum for chronic pain patients to support one another and have used the voices of their members to guide the Scottish Government’s policy on chronic pain.

Fiona Harris from Forres Health and Care Centre said: “Many patients find that engaging in social activity improves their chronic pain symptoms and the potential benefits of having access to a wide range of free and accessible activity options will be that patients will find an activity which is suited to their own individual


Dr Robert Lockhart from Maryhill Practice in Elgin said: “As a Practice we try to take a holistic approach to chronic pain and the effects it has on

patients, and this has long included promoted health and wellbeing."

Affa Sair trustee, Dr Joseph Parsons, added: “It means that we can provide our members, and people living with pain in Moray, with an amazing tool to help support their self-management.

"Pain is a biopsychosocial disease and often the healthcare system manages the biological with drugs and physiotherapy, and the psychological with interventions like cognitive behavioural therapy,

but the social side is often ignored.

"Pain can be very isolating and we hope that this scheme can prove that social prescribing can play a key role in helping people with pain to

have a better quality of life.”

Even sitting on a sofa can cause some people pain.
Even sitting on a sofa can cause some people pain.

Scottish government Public Health Minister Jenni Minto described the scheme as "pioneering".

“The Scottish Government is committed to rapidly improving care and services for people with chronic pain."

NHS Highland pain-specialist physiotherapist Rebecca Hunter said social prescribing is an "essential component" of the health service. "Social prescribing ensures our patients continue to feel supported and mitigates feelings of abandonment.”

Affa Sair is a member of the Scottish Government’s Chronic Pain Task Force.

Chronic pain patients consult their GP five times more frequently than those without chronic pain.

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