Knowledge Exchange Framework perspective demonstrated: Working with the public and third sector

Musculoskeletal conditions account for the largest proportion of years lived with disability and are a leading cause of work absence. Arthritic pain can devastate the lives of those living with it. ‘Enabling Self-management and Coping with Arthritic-Pain' (ESCAPE-pain) is a practical, cost-effective and sustainable intervention that is offering sufferers hope of a better quality of life through a programme of self-education and exercise.

Professor Mike Hurley, Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences at Kingston University and St George's University of London, has devised a rehabilitation programme for chronic joint pain that is shaping the way arthritic pain is managed.

ESCAPE-pain offers people a six-week programme that combines self-education and coping strategies with individually tailored exercise regimen. 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.

Professor Hurley said the ESCAPE-pain programme helps participants overcome social anxiety and isolation – a symptom often suffered by patients.

The most important thing at the start of the process is to help people to understand their problem – then they are more likely to take your advice about doing physical activity and exercise, which is safe and beneficial despite being uncomfortable in the early stages of recovery. We want to reduce people's pain and the impact it has on their quality of life."

Professor Mike Hurley

Professor Mike Hurley

ESCAPE-pain: achievements so far

ESCAPE-pain has collected several accolades including the Royal Society of Public Health's Health and Wellbeing Award and UK Active's Specialist Training Programme of the Year Award. The programme has been cited in the United Kingdom National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) Guidelines for the Management of Osteoarthritis (2008) and in 2016 won a Best Practice award from the British Society of Rheumatology. The programme has been endorsed by organisations including NHS England, Public Health England and the charity Verus Arthritis.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the ESCAPE-pain rehabilitation programme was delivered in nearly 300 sites across the United Kingdom including community centres, leisure centres and schools, and has treated more than 20,000 people to date, saving the NHS an estimated £30 million by reducing health and social care needs by patients. During the pandemic, virtual delivery of the programme was developed and will continue to be used in the future.

Robust evaluation and independent review shows that, for the patient, ESCAPE-pain is safe and produces better clinical outcomes, reduces pain, improves physical function and reduces depression. For participants the programme is a very positive experience, altering their lives by increasing their independence, general well-being and quality of life. 

In September 2016, a smartphone app was made available so that people who wish can do the programme on their own. In November 2021, ESCAPE-pain scooped the Self Care Forum's Self Care Innovation Award which honours work that empowers and inspires people to self-manage their condition so they can live healthy and happy lives.

ESCAPE-pain: plans for the future

The next step is to get the scheme to hard-to-reach groups to further ease the burden on the health and social care system.

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