Northern Ireland Asembly Questions on chronic pain answered

Questions on work absenteeism and Quality 2020 strategy

Two of Mark H Durkan MLA’s Northern Ireland Assembly Questions on chronic pain have now been answered:  

Regarding the first question on work absenteeism, the response notes that due to the way data are collected regarding sickness absence, no information specific to chronic pain is available.  This appears to be due to the fact it is classified as a symptom rather than a condition. 

The second question on the recently-announced Quality 2020 strategy elicited a commitment from health minister Edwin Poots to pass on the suggestion that chronic pain is included as an outcome in the strategy.  The plan for the strategy is due in June so we will keep you updated as to its contents.

The questions are online here:


Mr Durkan asked the Minister for Social Development (i) for his assessment of the correlation between chronic pain and absenteeism from employment; and (ii) for an estimate of how many working days per annum are lost within his Department as a result of chronic pain. (AQW 10322/11-15)

Mr McCausland: Sickness absence in the NICS, including the Department for Social Development, is recorded using codes from the Sickness Absence Recording Tool (SART). Chronic pain may be a symptom of many conditions and is not recognised as a separate category within SART, therefore it is not possible to comment on any possible correlation between chronic pain and absenteeism from employment in the NICS. For that reason it is also impossible to estimate the number of working days per annum lost within my Department as a result of chronic pain.

Mr Durkan asked the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, in light of the publication of the Quality 2020 Strategy, what consideration he has given to including pain management in the proposed national outcome measures for health services.

(AQW 10323/11-15)

Mr Poots: An implementation plan is nearing completion for the Quality 2020 Strategy launched by me last November. I would expect this to be published before June of this year.

One of the 5 work-streams in this plan will concentrate on improving quality outcome measurement and the reporting on safety, effectiveness and the patient/ client experience in health and social care services. While some detailed elements of individual initiatives in the plan have yet to be finalised, I will ensure that the honourable Member’s suggestion will be passed to the relevant project team in due course.

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