Chronic joint pain, or osteoarthritis, affects one in five of the population over the age of 50, and one in two over 80. This condition causes considerable suffering and distress, and is a life-inhibiting disease.

Only a small proportion (about 5% of the eight to ten million sufferers in the UK) proceed to surgical intervention. Most are managed in the community, usually with painkillers, which are both unpopular with patients and potentially harmful. One in four GP appointments are estimated to be related to joint pain.

The ESCAPE-pain programme comprises 12 supervised sessions for a group of 10 to 12 participants who receive education and take part in a tailored exercise programme. The programme measures a range of clinical outcomes, and the participants are signposted to services to help them continue to progress.

The ESCAPE-pain programme is now increasingly being delivered to people in leisure centres and other community venues and even workplaces, offering easier access away from clinical settings.

It is less costly than usual care plans and generates savings in both primary and secondary care. The robust evidence for ESCAPE-pain shows that people achieve a marked improvement in mobility and pain reduction, and are better able to achieve the activities of everyday life. There is also a marked impact on mood based on anxiety and depression score improvements. Notably, results from the original trial have been replicated in clinical practice, which demonstrates the programme’s efficacy.

ESCAPE-pain has already spread to over 70 sites nationally, benefitting more than 6,000 people. It will continue to spread across the country as the AHSN Network supports its wider spread during 2018-2020.