Earlier this year we published a short article outlining our concerns at the problem of delayed diagnosis for chronic pain sufferers. We explained that our own (albeit unscientific) experience from our clients, showed that it was taking – on average – around 18 months for a diagnosis of their condition to be made. This seemed to hightlight a lack of training, on the part of GPs in particular, who are failing to recognise the symptoms of delibitating conditions such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), Neuropathic Pain, Fibromyalgia (FM) and Myofascial Pain Syndrome (MPS).
Since publishing that article, we have experienced several cases where the diagnosis has taken considerably longer than the average, in one case in excess of 5 years! What was of even more concern in that particular case, was that the lady concerned had not only consulted her GP on numerous occasions, but also been examined by an orthopaedic surgeon, a neurologist, and a consultant ENT surgeon. None of these medical professionals had considered the possibility that she may have been suffering from Myofascial Pain Syndrome, and none of them had suggested a referral to a consultant in pain medicine.
Clearly, the longer period of time between the condition developing and the diagnosis, the more entrenched the condition is likely to become, and the less ameniable to treatment.
In the case referred to above, the condition was eventually diagnosed by a consultant in pain medicine, whom we had instructed as an expert witness in her claim. He described the failure to diagnose her condition or make a referral to the pain team as “outrageous“, saying she was “a victim of a poor system“.
People suffering chornic pain are often restricted in their ability to work and are, therefore, frequently dependent upon State Benefits to survive. A late diagnosis significantly reduces the possibility that they will return to the workplace. Given the Government’s desire to significantly reduce the social security budget, surely some training in chronic pain for doctors, particularly GPs, would be a worthwhile investment. Such training would not necessarily have to cost the Government any additional resources, givent that doctors are these days required to undergo continuous professional development training, in any event.