Australian health ministers have agreed to pursue the recognition of pain as a chronic disease, referring the matter to the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said she asked federal, state and territory health ministers at the Standing Council on Health (SCOH) last week to support the bid.
The move would bring it into line with other diseases and validate it as a disease in its own right, not just a secondary disease or a symptom of another illness.
Last month ACT Health released a 5-year chronic conditions strategy, in which chronic pain was identified for the first time as a separate chronic condition.
ACT Health Directorate Director-General, Dr Peggy Brown said chronic pain was an invisible condition that needed to be actively managed using the latest evidence.
Minister Skinner said national recognition would be an important step to improve treatment and access to services for the one in five Australians who suffer chronic or persistent pain.
“It is estimated that 80 per cent of people who suffer from chronic pain miss out on treatment that could improve their health and quality of life,” said Mrs Skinner.
“This recognition is important so that patients are identified earlier and can access the appropriate care they need.”
The national push coincides with the release of the NSW government’s $26 million four-year ‘Pain Management Plan’. In it the government has committed to:
- expanding the number of pain clinics in NSW, especially in rural areas
- increasing the number of expert pain management clinicians
- funding research to support the effective management of pain in the community
Chronic pain costs the Australian economy an estimated $34 billion per year and is the nation’s third most costly health problem.
Minister Skinner said she would make it her priority to achieve a nationally-consistent approach to chronic pain.