A pilot osteoarthritis service has launched in North Staffordshire and Stoke in order to provide advice to patients and help the management of their joint pain, a Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) has confirmed.

Up to 40 pharmacies will be involved in the pilot, with funding for around 600 consultations in total, or 16 each.

The funding for the service will come from the local pharmacy network, according to North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent LPC chief operating officer, Dr Tania Cork.

Pharmacies who take part will receive an initial £50 after completing training from Keele University and then £15 per consultation.

The service will start around late September, according to Dr Cork, however pharmacists will be able to do the training in the meantime.  

At the pilot stage, patients will be able to self-refer to the service or be referred by a pharmacist. Dr Cork said at this stage they would not be taking referrals from general practice, but it would be something that will be considered if the pilot is developed into a full service.

‘I think if the service was to develop into a bigger service if we had some more funding later on, it would be able to help with capacity in GP practices because if they come to us first and we can help them that would be the key thing, but that’s later on,’ said Dr Cork.

The service itself will be evaluated by Keele University and the Jigsaw programme, which supports six European countries to address the unmet needs to adults with osteoarthritis. It will be evaluated on if patients have been ‘better educated’ about osteoarthritis and got ‘more information around it to be able to self-manage’.

‘The aim of the service is for anyone coming into the pharmacy with joint pain that could be osteoarthritis and to then have self-care information available from their community pharmacy,’ Dr Cook told The Pharmacist.

‘Pharmacists will be going over with the patients what are the joints affected, understanding the nature of the pain from the joint and understanding of osteoarthritis and what they should do.

‘We all know it’s about exercise and strengthening the whole of the joint whereas the patients think I’ve got joint pain, so don’t actually move that joint very much which is counterproductive.

‘It is about re-educating the patients or educating them in the first place and really helping to cut down workload from other healthcare professionals.’

It comes after a report in June found that one-third of people in England have chronic pain and need ‘holistic and comprehensive’ care.