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The role of the psychologist in the inpatient pain service: development and initial outcomes

Jepegnanam, C and Bull, E and Bansal, S and McCarthy, D and Booth, M and Purser, E and Makaka, T and Shapley, G and Cooper, J and Probert, J and Malpus, Z (2020) The role of the psychologist in the inpatient pain service: development and initial outcomes. British Journal of Pain. ISSN 2049-4637

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Abstract

© The British Pain Society 2020. Aim: This article describes the development and initial evaluation of introducing a psychologist role within an adult inpatient pain service (IPS) in a large North West of England National Health Service (NHS) trust. Background: The role of a psychologist in the management of outpatient chronic pain has been well documented, but their role within the IPS is less well described and rarely evaluated. We describe the development of a psychologist role within the team and initial service evaluation outcomes. Methods: Following an initial needs assessment, a band 8c psychologist joined the IPS one day per week offering brief one-to-one psychological interventions to people struggling with acute or chronic pain in hospital referred by inpatient pain team. The psychologist had an indirect role offering training, supervision and support to members of the inpatient pain team. Regarding direct patient work, following psychometric screening for pain-related disability and distress, a cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) approach was applied including identifying unhelpful beliefs about pain, psychoeducation about acute and persistent pain, developing and sharing formulations, skills training including breathing and relaxation exercises and where appropriate, signposting onto an outpatient chronic pain services for further pain self-management advice (e.g. pain management programme. To explore the impact of this direct intervention, a prospective service evaluation with a controlled before and after design was conducted. This compared (a) number of admissions and (b) length-of-stay outcomes in the 12 months following psychometric screening for patients who received psychological input (n = 34, the treatment group) and a sample who did not receive input because of discharge before intervention or non-availability of the psychologist, for example, annual leave (n = 30, control group). Demographic information and summaries of psychometric questionnaires were also analysed. Results: Of the sample of 64 patients, 50 were women, ages ranged from 18–80 years, 72% reported being currently unemployed or off sick from work and on screening and 39% and 48% met criteria for severe depression and pain-related anxiety, respectively. Hospital admissions in the intervention group reduced significantly (by 60%) in the 12 months following screening but increased (by 7%) for the control group (F(1,62) = 7.21, p =.009). Days of stay in hospital reduced significantly more (by 84%) in the intervention group than in the control group (by 41%) (F(1,62) = 8.90, p =.004). Illustrated case studies of brief psychological intervention with three people struggling with pain-related distress are presented. Conclusions: The psychologist became a valuable member of the multi-disciplinary IPS team, offering brief direct and indirect psychological interventions. While a relatively small sample, our prospective service evaluation data suggest brief psychological intervention may contribute to reduced length of stay and hospital admissions for people experiencing pain-related distress in hospital.

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