Pain affecting the face or mouth and lasting longer than three months ("chronic orofacial pain", COFP) is a relatively common problem in the UK. Our previous research shows that: healthcare professionals are uncertain how to diagnose and manage it; sufferers experience negative impacts in their everyday lives because of it; patients experience multiple unhelpful referrals between different health professionals in an attempt to manage it.
Our proposed research aims to identify, from both patient and financial perspectives, where and how we can make changes to the way patients with COFP are managed in the NHS. For example, why do we often get little improvement, yet a high cost personally or financially? Once this information is gathered we will be able to suggest potential new and improved care pathway(s) for COFP based on savings made by removing ineffective or inefficient aspects of the current care pathway and replacing them with something better. The new pathway(s) will be based on improving the quality of life of sufferers, decreasing their pain and providing efficiency for the patient and the NHS. Our team has diverse expertise: sociology, economics, psychology, specialist clinicians and health service policy. This will ensure that no single aspect of COFP’s impact on sufferers will be overlooked in favour of another, a common flaw in this area.
The expected outcomes to the research are a more effective and efficient care pathway for those with COFP, which will be ready to trial or directly implement. The learning should also be relevant to other long-term pain conditions affecting other parts of the body.