Helping patients escape chronic pain in St Helens

An award winning exercise programme for people living with hip and knee osteoarthritis is being rolled out in St Helens.

North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Physiotherapy Team and St Helens Borough Council’s Healthy Living Team – Lifestyle Referral are working together, along with support from the Innovation Agency, the Academic Health Science Network for the North West Coast, to roll out ESCAPE-Pain – a programme that helps patients feel more in control of their pain, and more able to do things they enjoy.

ESCAPE-Pain helps people to understand their condition, manage joint pain and avoid unnecessary visits to their GP and hospital. Those attending the class get information, advice and support from a physiotherapist or exercise professional to help them better manage their condition, along with an exercise programme tailored to their individual needs.

Those attending the class have also said they benefit from the social element of the class and being able to discuss their condition with others living with arthritis. One attendee commented, “It has really changed my life in the way that I manage my knee pain and the confidence it has given me.”

The Healthy Living Team’s Lifestyle Advisors will begin to deliver the programme alongside physiotherapy teams in St Helens community settings this month. An innovative approach will see the service provided in a popular community centre, for easy access by patients and providing an holistic approach to their care.

“This is the first joint working approach for the ESCAPE-Pain programme between public health and healthcare within the UK. We are very excited to be able to share the learning and successes from this joint approach to others as it really benefits patients,” said Jen Gilroy-Cheetham, Innovation Agency Programme Manager.

Ruth Sephton, Consultant Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said, “We saw the advantage of offering a jointly run programme in St Helens as this adds the most value to the patient in the most efficient way. Our ESCAPE-Pain programme means that patients are linked into the community services that will help them improve their lifestyle long-term and also enables the patient to gain immediate access to clinical advice and guidance from a physiotherapist, if needed.”

Sarah Holden, Head of Public Health Services said, “We know starting exercise can be a daunting thought for some people, especially when they are experiencing pain. ESCAPE-Pain provides a safe, supportive environment, to learn about and experience the benefits that the right exercises can bring. This is good news for patients who will be able to access this service within their community, benefitting their overall health and reducing their pain which will enable a person to get on with life. This is something we are excited to be part of in St Helens.”

An app version of the programme can be found here; it features the exercise videos that can help improve mobility and reduce knee and hip pain.

The Innovation Agency helped to get the programme started by funding the training of the ESCAPE-Pain trainers. They are part of the AHSN Network who are spreading ESCAPE-Pain across the country after evidence showed a marked improvement in mobility and reduced pain. Funding has been provided by Versus Arthritis (formerly Arthritis Research UK) and NHS England North (Cheshire and Merseyside).

The programme has been recognised with awards from both the Royal Society for Public Health and the British Society for Rheumatology.

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