As we start to settle into a new year, Painaustralia has presented our Budget Submission 2021–22, with three key priority areas to provide immediate, practical and long-term benefits for people who live with chronic pain.
The Federal Budget is an opportunity for the government to make a real and meaningful commitment to chronic pain as a health priority and Painaustralia’s submission outlines current best strategies and solutions for addressing this widespread and complex issue.
1. National Consumer Support and Awareness Program
2. Local Pain Support Worker Program
3. MBS items to support multidisciplinary and mental health care for people living with chronic pain.
National Consumer Support and Awareness Program
We know that there is a low community awareness of chronic pain issues and treatment options, which can lead to poor pain management strategies for many Australians. Consumers and health professionals need better access to information about best-practice pain management and care, so they can work together to improve quality of life.
A National Consumer Support and Awareness program would engage, educate and empower consumers and prescribers to understand and utilise the best pain management strategies.
Local Pain Support Worker Program
Part of the knowledge gap for people living with pain is an understanding of supported self-management. For people living with chronic pain, supported self-management can be the best way to improve levels of activity, reduce disability and keep pain to a minimum. There are many strategies however, people need to be informed and supported to learn more about managing pain and how to take the lead in their pain management.
A community-based Pain Support Worker Program, that allocates trained professionals to provide one-on-one support, could improve health outcomes and resilience for people living with pain, by engaging them as partners in their care and promoting active and supported management. A program like this, that targets those with the highest and most complex needs, would also reduce health system costs by decreasing inappropriate emergency department and primary medical presentations.
The program could address the need to improve the outcomes in rural and regional communities by building capacity in the existing health and medical workforce to deliver evidence-based pain science and informed self managed care.
MBS items to support multidisciplinary and mental health care for people living with chronic pain
Multidisciplinary care, that incorporates the physical, psychological, social and environmental factors that influence the experience of chronic pain, is the most beneficial and cost-effective pain management approach. However, the Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS) does not support the development, implementation and review of multidisciplinary pain management plans.
Our Budget Submission proposes a new MBS item, or items, to support the planning and review of multidisciplinary pain management.
Supporting multidisciplinary pain management will not only lead to better health outcomes for people living with chronic pain, it will also reduce the use of hospital-based services and over-reliance on medication including opioids.
Last year, the MBS Review Taskforce’s expert Pain Management Clinical Committee recommended several changes to the MBS, including support for multidisciplinary approaches incorporating planning, monitoring and review through consultations, group pain management, and telehealth. These recommendations should be accepted and implemented through the Budget process.
We also recommend that the Budget provide additional mental health support for people with chronic pain, as evidence shows that chronic pain does not exist in a vacuum and has varied co-morbidities and far-reaching consequences.
Chronic pain must be addressed as a national health priority in Australia. While we have made some important strides, there is a long way to go, and we urge the Federal Government to consider the practical and evidence-based suggestions in Painaustralia’s Budget Submission. Not only will these suggestions alleviate pressure on the health system and provide economic returns, they will improve the health and wellbeing of millions of Australians.
The Painaustralia Budget Submission 2021–22 is available on our website here.