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First Steps Toward Understanding the Variability in Acute Pain Service Provision and the Quality of Pain Relief in Everyday Practice Across the United Kingdom


  • Disclosure: We have worked with MELA Solutions Ltd. who are suppliers of handheld databases to several of the hospitals in the study. MELA have supported the development of the minimum dataset and facilitated the totally anonymized download and sharing of data for local benchmarking. MELA have provided the funding for three meetings in Manchester (venue, catering, and travel).



Pain management for patients in hospital is a major problem. There is significant variation in care provision. Evidence is needed about the ways in which acute pain services are organized in order to understand whether these are linked to important differences in patient outcomes. The National Inpatient Pain Study group is a voluntary collaborative venture of inpatient pain specialists in the United Kingdom who are working toward establishing a national prospective database of service provision and activity.


The objectives of this article are 1) to describe current pain service provision and activity 2) to define and monitor the quality and side effects of the primary analgesic techniques, such as central neuraxial block or systemic analgesia, and identify variations in practice.


Phase 1: Surveys were conducted in two phases during 2010–2011. Information about the organization of services was collected from 121 centers via a live Website. Phase 2: The pilot clinical dataset was collected from 13 hospitals in 2011.


Results indicated that staffing varied widely from one to nine nurses per hospital site. Twelve percent of hospitals did not routinely collect data. The main workload was orthopedic and general surgery based on data from 13 hospitals and 29,080 patients in 2011. Thirty-seven percent of patients reported a pain score of moderate to severe pain on the first assessment by the specialist pain team, and 21% reported severe pain. Nausea and vomiting was the most frequent adverse event reported. Sixty-nine major adverse events were logged, of which 64 documented respiratory depression (N = 29,080, 0.22%).


Prospective longitudinal data has the potential to improve our understanding of variation in process and outcome measures and establish future research priorities.