Staff training on pain improves use of communication and assessment tools


In 2009, researchers in Surrey completed an audit of pain recognition and management within the learning disability services there. One of the key recommendations from that audit was that staff in learning disability services should receive training in pain recognition and management.

As a result, nearly 200 services in the locality (from an invitation list of 275 took part in a staff training programme. The training covered pain thresholds, pain recognition and management, health action plans and medicines policies.  Measures were taken immediately after the training and at 3–5 months follow-up.

At follow-up, the team found significantly more services using communication tools, pain recognition tools and the Disability Distress Assessment Tool. However, they found that the use of pain management strategies did not change significantly.

There was also an increase in the number of health action plans showing information on how a person displays pain, possible causes of pain and the way in which the person likes their pain managed.

It was also found that the medicine policy in significantly more services than before the audit now specifically mentioned pain.

Evaluation and effectiveness of pain recognition and management training for staff working in learning disability services, Mackey, E. & Dodd, K., in British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39: 243–251

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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