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Back pain not a bar to working

It's been suggested the Department for Work and Pensions should do more to encourage people with back pain to return to work. Under the Pathways to Work initiative, a number of areas of the UK are currently providing condition management programmes (CMP) to help people who are claiming incapacity benefit and who want to get back to work.

In Staffordshire, with the benefit of DWP funding, our CMP provides one-to-one support, with groups covering confidence-building, depression, stress and anxiety, pain management and exercise.The CMP team comprises physiotherapists, a community psychiatric nurse, an occupational therapist and some psychology assistants, and is hosted by a PCT.

We have been able to commission local leisure centres to provide exercise facilities and a mental health charity to do group work in addition to that provided in-house. We have tried to use community settings for much of our work to move away from a medical model of illness.

While recognising that patients in an acute stage of back pain need physiotherapy, exercise and medication, once people are further along the path to chronic ill-health they need other approaches to help their psychological distress, poor coping strategies and illness behaviour. People are referred to the CMP via Jobcentres and if GPs are in an area with a CMP they can suggest patients on incapacity benefit ask their Jobcentre adviser if they can access the service.

These programmes are likely to become more widespread and should become a useful tool to reduce reliance on medical services and help people out of dependence on benefits.

From Dr Chris Chambers, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire

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