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AwardsMar 28, 2024

Flippin's Pain's ambitious campaign in north east England strikes gold at partnership awards event

Physiotherapist Cormac Ryan was celebrating last week (22 March) when a pain awareness initiative that’s close to his heart received a gold award at a prestigious HSJ Partnership Awards 2024 ceremony in London.

Professor Ryan is professor of clinical rehabilitation at Teesside University and a community pain champion for a public health initiative known as Flippin’ Pain. He helped to lead a series of public consultation events that impressed the judges who oversaw the Most Impactful Partnership in Preventative Healthcare category – one of 28 categories featured at this year's event.

Professor Ryan said: ‘We are so proud of this collaboration – it really does prove that by working together we can have more impact and truly affect positive change.'

He added: ‘Our objective with Flippin’ Pain has always been to “flip” people’s understanding of pain – to change the way they think about it, talk about it, and treat it, and this award win evidences that we’re doing just that, and in a really meaningful way.'

The gold award went to a partnership of organisations raising awareness of chronic pain and supporting those affected in the Tees Valley.

Cormac Ryan (centre in white shirt) is pictured with colleagues on stage at the HSJ Awards

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Outreach tour

Chronic pain is more prevalent in north east England than in any other part of the country, while opioid prescription rates in the region are three times higher than in London. The award-winning public-private sector collaboration was developed to reach local people living with chronic pain, to overcome barriers to physical exercise and to challenge outdated perceptions and beliefs relating to pain management and treatment.

The collaboration led to the Flippin’ Pain™ Tees Valley Outreach Tour. The 19 events, which were held over six days in May 2023, included educational workshops, public seminars and experiential pop-ups. More than 1,500 people attended the sessions, which were led by a team of pain professionals, educators and community champions – including world-leading pain scientist Professor Lorimer Moseley.

As a direct result of the tour, the organisers said

  • more than one attendee in three living with chronic pain reported that they could better manage their own pain
  • most (87 per cent) said they recognised their beliefs about pain management were outdated
  • most (73 per cent) said they believed that exercise was beneficial – an increase of 40 per cent from before the tour
  • nearly half said they were more likely to consider tapering their opioid use

Craig Blair, local director for the North East and North Cumbria ICB, explained: ‘I'm absolutely delighted that this innovative campaign has received the recognition it deserves at such a prestigious awards ceremony and we are able to highlight the positive impact it has made to people across the Tees Valley.

‘It is testament to the hard work and positive approach with partners from all areas across the health and care system, coming together with fresh and exciting ideas to improve the health and wellbeing of our local population.'

Our objective with Flippin’ Pain has always been to 'flip' people’s understanding of pain – to change the way they think about it, talk about it, and treat it, and this award win evidences that we’re doing just that [Cormac Ryan]

Changing people's perspectives

Lauren Perkin, programme officer for You've Got This (a Sport England Place Partnership), added: ‘Through our work in the local community, we know that many people live in pain, which prevents them from being active. They often believe they can't do anything about it because they have never been told or shown they can.

‘By helping health professionals and those living in pain change their perspectives and flip how they deal with pain, we can help people to live more active lives.'

Paul Kreczak, Tees Valley Sport's executive director, described Flippin’ Pain as a 'pioneering piece of work'. He added: ‘It's a real honour to receive this award and a fantastic testament to what can be achieved when partners collaborate.' 

HSJ editor Alastair McLellan noted: 'Almost any attempt to improve NHS productivity – the service’s greatest challenge – without working in concert with suppliers starts at a major disadvantage. Indeed, many of the best ideas for improving productivity do and will come from suppliers.'

He added: 'Every one of the businesses on the Partnership Awards shortlist has shown the kind of thinking and determination it takes to deliver change in healthcare services. They should all be very proud of the efforts, our 28 winners especially so.'

Flippin’ Pain is a public health campaign that aims to change the way people think about, talk about and treat chronic pain. It was orginally developed by Connect Health, a health services provider with headquarters in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Connect Health collaborated with NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care BoardTees Valley Sport Active PartnershipTeesside University and You’ve Got This to deliver a series of targeted events and activities for members of the public and health professionals.

Author: I A McMillan
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