Background Opioid prescribing to treat chronic non-cancer pain has rapidly increased, despite a lack of evidence for long-term safety and effectiveness. A pain review service was developed to work with patients taking opioids long-term to explore opioid use, encourage non-drug-based alternatives, and, where appropriate, support dose reduction.
Aim To evaluate the service and its potential impact on opioid use, health and wellbeing outcomes, and quality of life (QoL).
Design and setting Mixed-methods evaluation of a one-to-one service based in two GP practices in South Gloucestershire, England, which took place from September 2016 to December 2017.
Method Quantitative data were collected on baseline demographics; data on opioid use, misuse, and dose, health, wellbeing, QoL, and pain and interference with life measures were collected at baseline and follow-up. Twenty-five semi-structured interviews (n = 18 service users, n = 7 service providers) explored experiences of the service including perceived impacts and benefits.
Results Of 59 patients who were invited, 34 (57.6%) enrolled in the service. The median prescribed opioid dose reduced from 90 mg (average daily morphine equivalent; interquartile range [IQR] 60 to 240) at baseline to 72 mg (IQR 30 to 160) at follow-up (P<0.001); three service users stopped using opioids altogether. On average, service users showed improvement on most health, wellbeing, and QoL outcomes. Perceived benefits were related to wellbeing, for example, improved confidence and self-esteem, use of pain management strategies, changes in medication use, and reductions in dose.
Conclusion The service was well received, and health and wellbeing outcomes suggest a potential benefit. Following further service development, a randomised controlled trial to test this type of care pathway is warranted.