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Papers of the Week

Papers: 16 Dec 2023 - 22 Dec 2023

2023 Dec 13

J Pain


Waiting in Pain II: An updated analysis of the multidisciplinary staffing levels and clinical activity in Australian specialist persistent pain services.


MacIntyre E, Braithwaite FA, Stanton TR, Burke ALJ


This study provides an update on multidisciplinary staffing and clinical activity in Australian specialist persistent pain services. Of the 109 services identified, 57 responded, met inclusion criteria and completed a study-specific questionnaire detailing service characteristics, staff resources and clinical activities. Where possible, data were compared between the ‘Waiting in Pain’ (WIP) investigations (WIP-I: Dec’08-Jan’10, WIP-II: Jul’16-Feb’18). WIP-II found more pain services (Level 1 centres, rural services) and more full-time equivalent (FTE) staffing (overall, psychiatry, psychology, occupational therapy) than WIP-I. Although Level 1 centres employed more FTE staff (overall, medical) than Level 2 clinics, staffing was comparable when considered relative to clinical activity and this was stable over time for most disciplines. Clinical activity in metropolitan and rural services also remained stable, as did rural service staffing (type, FTE), suggesting that newer clinics replicated existing models. WIP-II highlighted greater diversity in group structures than WIP-I and an associated mean 0.02FTE allied health staff/patient seen (WIP-I=0.03FTE). Staffing (amounts, types) did not change significantly over time when considered relative to clinical activity, supporting the conclusion that these are workable clinical structures. However, changes in group format (duration, staffing) suggest a shift towards lower intensity programmes that require less allied health staffing to deliver. PERSPECTIVE: This article presents updated data regarding multidisciplinary staffing profiles, clinical activity, and group programme structures within Australian specialist persistent pain services and examines changes since the original investigation. As the only published staffing profiles for multidisciplinary pain services, this project provides critical information to inform service (re)design and care delivery.