The team tackling veteran pain head on
A special profile of the extremely valuable work being done by London’s King Edward VII’s Hospital to offer practical advice and support to veterans suffering chronic pain, via its specialist online and veteran-specific Pain Management Programme …
King Edward VII’s Pain Management Programme (PMP) is the only veteran-specific pain-management programme of its kind in the UK for veterans living with persistent pain resulting mainly from injuries suffered in active service. As you can imagine (or sadly may even know from personal experience), chronic pain can have a terrible impact on every aspect of life, including relationships and work prospects as well as physical and mental health.
The PMP is run by an expert team led by a specialist psychologist, nurse and physio, each of whom has more than 20 years’ experience in supporting people with persistent pain. The team runs specialist ten-day intensive programmes to assist veterans with pain management, rationalising pain-related medication where appropriate and or improving their mental health.
Not wanting veterans to miss out during the pandemic, the team switched to a virtual programme, which has benefited veterans who are unable to travel. The team has now carried out 13 full programmes this way, and 35 in total, with life-changing results.
The PMP helps veterans enjoy an improved quality of life by teaching them how to manage their pain. It is the only pain management programme in the UK exclusively offered for veterans.
The Pain Management Programme in detail
As mentioned above, the PMP is a group-based programme delivered by expert clinicians including a psychologist, nurse and physiotherapist, who will share up-to-date information about pain science and offer practical strategies to help with pain management. The aim is to introduce a range of pain-management strategies that are designed to help with the day-to-day management of pain, and also to provide an environment for veterans to share their experiences and gain support from other group members.
Individuals with persistent pain can often feel isolated and unsure of how to plan for the future. Addressing these issues and many others can help reduce the negative impact that pain can have. The team believes that the involvement of a support network can aid the success of any treatment, which is why family and friends are invited to attend one of the days scheduled halfway through the programme. The team does not share with family or friends anything that has been discussed on the PMP, but the aim is to help them understand more about persistent pain and to give information about the programme.
The PMP is a ten-day virtual programme run over nine months and delivered virtually on Zoom. The virtual PMP delivers the same content as the previously run face-to-face programme, without the need for you to travel or stay in London. The pain management team work closely with the group, and all the educational and practical sessions encourage discussion and can be adapted to the needs of each group.
Useful information about the PMP
- The PMP is neither individual psychotherapy nor a group therapy programme. You will not be expected to share anything that you do not feel like sharing.
- The psychology sessions are educational – in other words, they take the form of attending a course, aiming to introduce you to psychological strategies that could be helpful in the management of the impact of pain on your mood and quality of life.
- Many of the veterans attending the PMP suffer from PTSD. The PMP is not a PTSD group and we are mindful not to raise any issues in relation to PTSD so that the focus throughout remains upon pain management.
- The PMP does not include hands-on physiotherapy treatment. Reasons for this will be talked about much more during the programme and at assessment where appropriate.
- Medication use is discussed, and there is time to look at individuals’ needs. The aim is not, however, for more drugs to be prescribed – this will be considered at assessment.
The pain management team have been successfully running virtual programmes over Zoom since April 2020. These have been very popular and the results are comparable to those from residential programmes previously run on-site at the hospital. In order to attend virtually, you will need a laptop/computer or tablet with audio and video capability, and an internet connection. No travel is needed and the programme remains free of charge to all veterans.
Why choose King Edward VII’s Hospital?
King Edwards VII’s Hospital has many years’ experience of working with veterans and of delivering pain-management programmes. The pain management team delivered its first veteran-specific pain management programme in the UK in 2015. It delivers between six and eight programmes a year, with eight to ten veterans per PMP. The data from these programmes show significant positive outcomes for the majority of veterans who have attended a programme.
Feedback from veterans who have attended the programme
- ‘I would recommend this to anyone who has long-term pain. I never thought that I could find a non-invasive option to help me with my pain and its management until now.’
- ‘The programme has been hugely beneficial in helping me to understand my long-term pain and identify potential triggers, as well as providing positive coping mechanisms.’
- ‘The PMP made me realise how low I had been before. The ability to understand and specify where the pain locations are is also hugely beneficial. I feel much more confident about my ability to succeed again.’
- ‘I feel much more confident now and able to do more, but know to pace myself. I also feel more confident that my pain is not being caused by further injury, which has relieved my anxiety in relation to my pain.’
- ‘I have found the support and communication towards individual support networks (i.e. GPs and professional medical services, family and friends) absolutely fantastic. Also the knowledge that further support is available if required.’
- ‘Zoom was wonderful for me, I would not have been able to cope with face-to-face and travelling.’
How to apply for the next virtual Pain Management Programme
If you would like to apply for a place on the PMP, you will need to complete an application form (see below) and then, if accepted, you will be invited to attend an assessment with members of the pain management team via Zoom or telephone.
In order to apply for an assessment you will first need to contact programme administrator Caroline Dunne (see ‘Useful info’) for an application form, or complete the online form you can find on the PMP webpage.
The application form will provide the team with a bit more detail about you and your pain. In addition to the application form, the team will also need your GP to complete a referral form (you can also download this from the above-mentioned webpage or request a copy from Caroline Dunne). Unfortunately, the team is unable to consider your application if you are not registered with an NHS GP practice. Proof of service is also required.
Once the team has the above information and has decided you are eligible, you will be invited for an assessment with a multi-disciplinary team consisting of a consultant in pain medicine, specialist physiotherapist, consultant psychiatrist and consultant psychologist, all of whom specialise in pain management.
The assessment takes about two hours. It is important to note that this is an assessment for suitability for the programme only. The PMP is not necessarily the best treatment option for all veterans, with their unique histories of persistent pain or other difficulties. Where appropriate the team may suggest other options for you and your GP to consider.
After the assessment you will receive a letter informing you of what happens next, much of which we will have discussed with you during your assessment. If it is agreed the programme will be of benefit, you will be offered dates to attend. You will need to attend all the dates, so it’s helpful to check your diary before accepting a place.
CASE STUDY: MORGAN DALLY
Morgan served in the RAF until 2014, when he was medically discharged with multiple back injuries incurred while serving, and subsequently became dependent on pain medication that affected his well-being, relationships and family life. This was transformed by the Pain Management Programme in 2020, which enabled Morgan to come off all pain medication and take on a more demanding job as a result.
Says Morgan: ‘Having been dependent on pain medication for nearly a decade, and seeing its impact on my life, career and family relationships, I was referred to the Pain Management Programme in 2020. With the support and understanding of the pain team I managed to wean myself off all medication in six months, and I started to feel like myself again for the first time in years. This would not have been possible without the help of the amazing team at King Edward’s VII’s hospital.’
Click here to find out more about the programme
If you have any questions about the application process, contact programme administrator Caroline Dunne
Tel: 0207 467 4370
ABOUT KING EDWARD VII’S HOSPITAL
Established in 1899, King Edward VII’s Hospital is an independent charitable hospital with a long history of providing the highest-quality surgical and clinical care, using advanced medical techniques.
As a long-standing charity the hospital is dedicated to providing the highest levels of subsidised care to veterans of the Armed Forces. The charity provides military grants and subsidies for complex medical treatment to Service or ex-Service personnel by building strong relationships with a number of Service charities, while the hospital’s Centre For Veterans’ Health supports veterans with management of chronic pain through its award-winning Pain Management Programme, the only hospital-based service in the UK catering exclusively to veterans’ needs.