‘Allow chronic pain sufferers chance to have flexible working arrangements’

Enforce flexible work legislation for people with chronic pain, who make up one fifth of the adult European population, healthcare stakeholders are demanding.

Some 19 per cent of Europeans suffer from chronic pain, meaning it is not just a medical problem but also a social and economic burden on society. Social benefits, disability payments, lost working days and a reduced working capacity all come into the equation.

Earlier this year, the societal impact of pain brought together over 220 representatives of healthcare organisations and stakeholders from more than 28 countries.

During a symposium in Brussels, they came up with eight policy recommendations that were discussed by the Malta Health Network this week.

The discussion was held in preparation for the Societal Impact of Pain 2017 symposium, which the Malta organisation will co-host with the No Pain Foundation.

Apart from preparing for next year’s symposium, the local stakeholders will also be setting up a platform, which includes policymakers, to come up with long-term solutions that go beyond 2017. This year’s symposium recommended setting up a European platform for exchange, comparison and benchmarking of access and best healthcare practices as this would help empower chronic pain patients, their relatives and caregivers.

Governments were urged to acknowledge that pain was common in many chronic diseases and that pain itself could be considered as a chronic condition wh­en it came to healthcare policy.

The proposals also call on EU institutions and governments to promote policies that reflect the link between pain care and employment and recognise the interconnection of health, employment and social protection policies.

One of the policy recommendations specifies that EU governments should enforce or implement legislation for employers to provide reasonable, flexible workplace adjustments that can help people with chronic pain stay in work or reintegrate into the workforce.

The symposium also recommended more investment in research, including clinical and epidemiological studies.

Finally, in a bid to soften and prevent the impact on society, states were encouraged to invest more in education and provide information on diagnosis and management of pain among all healthcare professionals, patients and the public.

Last year, Malta opened a fibromyalgia clinic with specialised treatment for patients. The debilitating chronic pain disorder causes widespread muscle pain and tiredness and is associated with anxiety and depression. Sufferers are highly sensitive to touch so that even a minor knock can be extremely painful.

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  1. Societal Impact of Pain (SIP)
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