New community pharmacy referral pathway for joint pain

28 January 2019

Arthritis Action Dietitian and Services Development Manager Martin Lau, was part of a round-table panel, hosted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) at the London office, to discuss how to help patients with joint pain, following results of a recent survey of community pharmacists.

The survey, looking into current management of osteoarthritis (OA), revealed variation in practice and a number of barriers for pharmacy teams when dealing with patients who experience joint pain. Inspired by this, the RPS called the panel together, to develop a pathway to drive best practice in community pharmacy, for managing all patients who present with joint pain of all types.

The group was chaired by Angela Kam, careers editor of The Pharmaceutical Journal, and included pharmacists, rheumatologists, general practitioners and physiotherapists, to start a conversation around pathways for referral for people with joint pain.

Martin discussed sleep disturbance in OA and how, when partnered with reduction in movement, it can limit an individual’s ability to work; tying it to financial hardship, emotional stress and ultimately compounding on the long-term impact of persistent pain on mental well-being.

“The prevalence of depression in OA patients is around 20%, and around 31–41% of patients with OA experience anxiety,” Martin explained.

Other areas discussed included the advisory role of pharmacists in well-being, assessing symptoms and experience of pain, lifestyle choices and physical activity, and advice on healthy eating and weight management.

The group agreed to draft a referral pathway, to direct pharmacists in the management of their patients, and that pharmacy is valuable in identifying OA and managing symptoms, with the caveat for further training to be recognised, and the individual roles of the pharmacy team to be defined.

As a next step, the Pharmaceutical Journal has announced plans to develop a relevant educational supplement, to help guide joint pain management in community pharmacies.

Read the full report in the Pharmaceutical Journal issue, published 23 January 2019.