AHSN Network national programme from April 2018-March 2020

Chronic joint pain, or osteoarthritis, affects one in five of the population over the age of 50, and one in two over 80. This condition causes considerable suffering and distress and is a life-inhibiting disease.

Only a small proportion (about 5% of the eight to ten million sufferers in the UK) proceed to surgical intervention. Most are managed in the community, usually with painkillers, which are both unpopular with patients and potentially harmful. One in four GP appointments are estimated to be related to joint pain.

The ESCAPE-pain programme, which stands for Enabling Self-Management and Coping with Arthritic Pain using Exercise (ESCAPE), is a group rehabilitation programme for people with chronic joint pain that integrates educational self-management and coping strategies with an exercise regimen individualised for each participant. It helps people understand their condition, teaches them simple things they can help themselves with, and takes them through a progressive exercise programme so they learn how to cope with pain better.

Developed by Professor Mike Hurley, an NHS Innovation Accelerator fellow, in 2013 it was identified as a local innovation that was ready for adoption by the Health Innovation Network (HIN), the Academic Health Science Network for south London.

Following the success of the HIN’s local rollout, ESCAPE-pain became an AHSN Network national adoption and spread programme from 2018 until the end of March 2020. The programme was delivered in partnership with Versus Arthritis and Sport England, and supported by the NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA). In 2020 it was named Musculoskeletal (MSK) Initiative of the Year by the Health Service Journal.

At the end of the AHSN Network national programme, 12,781 people had completed ESCAPE-pain and sites adopting went from 51 to 280.

The longer-term future of the programme has now been secured through a partnership between HIN and national medical charity Orthopaedic Research UK (ORUK).

From 20 April 2021, the charity, which works to improve bone, joint and muscle wellbeing through education, training and research, took over the operational management of ESCAPE-pain and is developing it under licence from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. Key members of the ESCAPE-pain team will continue to run ESCAPE-pain at Orthopaedic Research UK, ensuring a seamless transfer.

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