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Back Pain

Volume 408: debated on Thursday 3 July 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the cost of back pain was to the NHS in the last year for which figures are available; what research is being conducted into the management of such pain; how many treatment centres are available in (a) England and (b) each Government Office region; what the average referral time is for patients diagnosed with back pain and related conditions; what plans there are to provide additional resources to tackle this condition; and if he will make a statement. [121643]

Comprehensive information is not held centrally on the cost of back pain to the national health service or on referral times for patients diagnosed with back pain. At national level, the NHS research and development health technology assessment programme is currently supporting two research projects on the management of back pain covering, respectively, whether early imaging influences management and improves outcome in patients with low back pain, and the longer term clinical and economic benefits of offering acupuncture to patients with chronic low back pain. Treatment is available very widely. It is for primary care trusts to determine what level of resources to devote to the treatment of different conditions in their localities.The Government are currently exploring a number of ways to improve access to occupational health services and vocational rehabilitation for all workers, including those suffering from back pain, through NHS Plus and the Welfare to Work reforms. NHS Plus, launched in November 2001, is currently providing access to local occupational health services to small and medium sized businesses through 107 providers (NHS trusts) across the United Kingdom; while, the NHS "Back in Work" campaign aims to reduce the causes of back pain and the incidents that lead to back pain in the NHS. In addition, the new Job Retention and Rehabilitation pilots, launched on 1 April 2003, and the Incapacity Benefit reforms, announced in the Government's Green Paper in November 2002, "Pathways to Work", are offering work-focused interventions for those with health problems, including back pain, to help people return to work.