GPs need more support to manage chronic pain

3 minute read

Painaustralia's proposal aims to facilitate the use of Medicare-subsidised chronic disease management plans to incorporate chronic pain and to increase funding.

Politicians, doctors and consumers alike are in favour of Painaustralia’s proposal to double the funding for multidisciplinary TCAs for chronic conditions following a rally held at parliament house today, according to Painaustralia’s CEO.

Speaking to The Medical Republic, Painaustralia CEO Giulia Jones praised the “successful” rally, which drew around 100 participants and 10 members of parliament including representatives for all three major parties.

The rally centred around a proposal, put forward by Painaustralia, to expand the current Medicare-subsidised chronic disease management framework to facilitate its use for chronic pain as a condition in its own right, not just in relation to other chronic diseases.

According to Ms Jones, there are many misconceptions about chronic pain.

“One in five people live with chronic pain, so in every lunchroom, in every supermarket, on every bus, and in most family homes someone is living with chronic pain,” she said in a statement.

“In fact, 68% of people living with chronic pain are of working age and of the 3.4 million Australians with this condition, more than half, 1.8 million are women.”

Ms Jones hoped the proposal would put a spotlight on this gendered issue, inviting a respectful conversation about pain.

According to Ms Jones, increasing the government-funded allied health visits for chronic condition through TCAs, facilitated by GPs, from five to 10 per year should be a “very simple ask” for the government.

According to Ms Jones, this would cost the government $70 million, a “modest cost” considering the improvements to chronic pain.

The group also called for an increase to rebates for allied health professional visits related to chronic disease management referral to mirror those under a mental health treatment plan referral, and for the plans to “be more bespoke and determined as needed by the patient and their general practitioner”.

To support GPs in building GPMPs and/or TCAs, the proposal also suggested nurses should be authorised to completed GPMP and TCA-related activities and that services should be available via telehealth.

The proposal also noted that those tapping into chronic disease management services should be encouraged to have a current mental health plan.

According to Painausralia’s annual report 2022-23, a fifth of GP presentations in Australia involve chronic pain.

Ms Jones hoped that acceptance of the proposal would facilitate a straightforward plan for patients presenting to GPs with chronic pain.

“We want the doctors to have something to offer [patients] that’s going to help change their lives,” she said.

“In the case of chronic pain, we’d like them to get a multidisciplinary pain management team going, which might include a physio, an exercise physiologist … we also know that it’s really helpful for people with chronic pain to have psychological pain training, which some of the psychologists can do, which is about not allowing that pain to take over your whole life and learning how to mentally manage your chronic pain.”

Ms Jones said she hoped the proposal would help curb GPs’ fears over using chronic disease management plans for pain.

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