In trying to reduce the use of opioid painkillers, and at the same time support patients with improved understanding of how pain can be managed alternatively, Dr McCullagh and her team developed a new programme within the GP practice.
This work was a collaboration between Cognitive Behavioural Therapist Elizabeth Fitzpatrick, Practice Based Pharmacist, Bernard Brannigan, GP Dr Linda Kelly and Dr Rose McCullagh. The team devised a new programme to review pain medication and support patients in their practice with specific pain management therapy sessions to help them better understand and live with their pain, and to enhance their quality of life.
The Royal College of General Practitioners recognises excellence and innovation in general practice through its Bright Ideas Annual Awards. The Awards are presented to healthcare professionals who have identified, tried and tested a better way of doing things when treating and caring for patients.
The High Impact award, won by Dr McCullagh and the team, celebrates ideas that have taken a fresh approach to addressing a primary care problem and have demonstrated tremendous value.
Reflecting on the success of the new support offered to patients with chronic pain, one recipient said: "I am feeling happier…becoming more assertive, looking at life in a much more positive way and tackling those negative, automatic thoughts."
Accepting the award, Dr McCullagh said: "I am honoured that our work has been recognised by the College, but even more pleased that our new approach to supporting pain management in primary care has had such a positive impact on the lives of my patients. We have now spoken to others about delivering a similar service in other practices.
"Waiting lists for many procedures in Northern Ireland are unacceptably long and as GPs, patients continue to return to us for support and advice. It is incredibly frustrating seeing patients and knowing there isn't much more that I can do for them.
Our new pain management initiative was one way for us to think differently and see how practice teams working together are so much more than the sum of their parts. Using our complimentary skills and fresh thinking, we have enabled our patients living with chronic pain to regain their self-belief and better manage their symptoms."
"Our NHS is facing the most enormous pressures in its 70-year history and so the Secretary of State's announcement presents a sensible way forward, particularly the emphasis on encouraging people to take greater care of their own health and the need for a radical change in NHS spending on measures to help prevent people from getting ill in the first place.
"A stronger focus on primary and community healthcare is the obvious solution and our GP teams are already doing great work in keeping patients well, in their local communities, thereby easing the pressures on other parts of the NHS.
"But it is not only hospitals that are feeling the strain and we urgently need greater investment in general practice - both extra funding and additional numbers of GPs and other healthcare professionals - before we can take on the responsibility of caring for and supporting even greater numbers of patients.
"Mr Hancock is repeatedly - and rightly - saying that GPs are the bedrock of the NHS, and it is good that the document published today acknowledges the pressures we are under as we try to manage rising patient demand at the same time as we have a severe shortage of GPs.
"We must ensure that general practice does not lose out in the plans to expand community support and that any additional staff are allocated to GP teams, as well as community health services.
"Investment in general practice is the most cost-effective way of providing care to patients, close to home where they want it, and keeping the rest of the NHS sustainable, long into the future."
Exclusive Just around one in 10 locum GPs would consider taking on a partnership role in the future, a major survey of locum GPs has revealed.
“With more than 80,000 people currently in prison in England and Wales and even more in other secure environments, it’s vital to recognise that prison health is also a part of public health.
“It is not the College’s role to pass judgement on those who are in prison and the reasons why they are there, but many of our GPs work with patients in secure environments, and maintaining and improving health in prisons is crucial, especially in view of the fact that the vast majority of people will, at some point, be reintroduced to society.
“There are obviously obstacles to delivering the same care to people living in secure environments to people in the wider community, and the College is advocating that prisoners should be afforded provision of, or access to, appropriate care services or treatment that are at least consistent in range and quality to patients in the wider community, with the aim of improving health outcomes for society as a whole.
“This is already the basis of the College’s own position on ‘equivalence’ of care between those living in secure environments and those in the wider community, and it is encouraging to see that these issues have been highlighted in the Health and Social Care Committee’s report.”
The number of GP practices in Northern Ireland has fallen by 17 since 2014, according to new research.