Shared Medical Appointments

A partnership between Access Health Care and Plymouth Marjon University has been awarded funding by an independent charity, the Health Foundation, to be part of its Innovating for Improvement programme.

The Access Health Care team will receive up to £75,000 to support the implementation and measurement of a groundbreaking project involving the provision of Shared Medical Appointments [SMAs] for patients at Ernesettle Medical Centre, in Plymouth, who use opioid medication to manage chronic pain.

It is estimated that 14 million people in England live with chronic pain, and 25 per cent say it prevents them from undertaking their normal daily activities, including work. People living with chronic pain consult their GP up to five times more frequently than those without pain.

The use of opioid medicine to manage chronic pain is a national concern and in the Devon CCG area spend on opioid medication is significantly higher than the national average.

This project will investigate whether SMAs, that bring together medical and non-medical aspects of pain management, can give patients more control over their condition. They will involve educational elements [such as medicines management, the pain cycle and nutrition], group discussion with other patients, and interaction with a core multidisciplinary team consisting of a GP, a lifestyle, health and sport coordinator, and a pharmacist.

The aim is to provide patients with approaches to managing their chronic pain in different ways so that they can go about their daily life more easily. At the same time, it is hoped peer-to-peer support will help to reduce feelings of isolation and improve resilience, while medicine reviews will reduce the levels of opioid medication.

“We’re bringing together people who suffer from chronic pain so they can enjoy a two-hour session with a GP, a lifestyle, health & sport coordinator, and a pharmacist. With all those in attendance dealing with the same complex issues, there’s a likelihood any advice given to one member of the group will also be of benefit to others,” explained Plymouth GP Dr Ed Parry-Jones, one of the driving forces behind the initiative.

The university will be responsible for the health & wellbeing element of the project, while Plymouth-based Evalesco Consulting will oversee change / project management.

"Each session runs for two hours and I'll be there to offer advice throughout," explained Sam Vaughan, a lifestyle, sport & health coordinator at the university. "The last half hour of each session will be devoted to healthy conversations, which could involve working on things like nutrition, how to sleep better, or how to manage stress. We might also do some light activity such as weight work, stretches, or chair-based exercises."

The assistant director of improvement programmes at the Health Foundation, Sarah Henderson, said: “We’re excited to support this project, one of 23 that have been developed by frontline teams to improve health and social care across the UK.

“We are looking forward to working with the teams to develop their innovative ideas, put them into practice, and gather evidence about how their projects are improving care for patients.”

To learn more about this exciting initiative watch the short video below.

Innovating for Improvement
The Health Foundation's programme to test and develop innovative ideas and approaches to improve health and social care delivery, or the way people manage their own health care in the UK, has provided £75,000 of funding, over the course of 15 months, to support the implementation and measurement of this project.

More details of the Innovating for Improvement programme can be found here.

How we use the information of those participating in Shared Medical Appointments
If you are participating in, or interested in participating in, this project and would like to know more about how your information will be used then please refer to the privacy notice below. Devon Doctors Group privacy notice can be found here.

Shared Medical Appointments privacy notice.pdf

If you're a professional wanting to know more about the project...
If you'd like to know more about Shared Medical Appointments, please contact Dr Ed Parry Jones via