North East health campaign takes home gold at prestigious national awards

Collaboration that ‘flipped’ the way people think about, talk about and treat chronic pain in the Tees Valley won Most Impactful Partnership in Preventative Healthcare category
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A unique partnership of North East organisations raising awareness of chronic pain and supporting those affected in the Tees Valley, has been named a gold winner in the highly-acclaimed Health Service Journal’s (HSJ) annual Partnership Awards.

Thought to affect around 43% of people regionally, chronic pain is more prevalent in the North East than any other part of England and opioid prescription rates in the area are 300% higher than in London.

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A first-of-its-kind public and private sector collaboration was forged to tackle the issue head on. It aimed to directly reach those living with chronic pain, overcome barriers to physical exercise and challenge outdated perceptions and beliefs relating to pain management and treatment.

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Together, Connect Health and its public health campaign Flippin’ Pain™, NHS North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board, Tees Valley Sport Active Partnership, Teesside University and You’ve Got This, pooled resources and expertise, to co-create and deliver a series of targeted events and activities for the public and health professionals.

These included the Flippin’ Pain™ Tees Valley Outreach Tour. It comprised 19 events held over six days in May 2023, featuring educational workshops, public seminars and experiential pop-ups. More than 1,500 people joined the sessions, which were led by a team of pain professionals, educators and community champions, including world-leading pain scientist Professor Lorimer Moseley.

As a direct result of the tour:

  • more than one third of attendees living with chronic pain reported that they could better manage their own pain
  • 87% said they recognised their beliefs about pain management were outdated
  • 73% believed exercise was beneficial – a 40% increase, from before the tour
  • nearly half said they were more likely to consider tapering their opioid use.

Renowned as one of the most prestigious industry events in the healthcare calendar, the HSJ Partnership Awards recognised 188 finalists. The Tees Valley team beat off stiff competition from eight other contenders to win gold in the Most Impactful Partnership in Preventative Healthcare category.

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Professor Cormac Ryan, a community pain champion for public health initiative Flippin’ Pain™ and professor of clinical rehabilitation at Teesside University, led many of the public consultation events. He said: “We are so proud of this collaboration – it really does prove that by working together we can have more impact and truly affect positive change.

“Our objective with Flippin’ Pain has always been to ‘flip’ people’s understanding of pain – to change the way they think about it, talk about it, and treat it, and this award win evidences that we’re doing just that, and in a really meaningful way.”

Craig Blair, local director for the North East and North Cumbria ICB, said: “I'm absolutely delighted that this innovative campaign has received the recognition it deserves at such a prestigious awards ceremony and we are able to highlight the positive impact it has made to people across the Tees Valley.

"It is testament to the hard work and positive approach with partners from all areas across the health and care system, coming together with fresh and exciting ideas to improve the health and wellbeing of our local population."

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Lauren Perkin, programme officer for You've Got This, a Sport England Place Partnership, said: "Through our work in the local community, we know that many people live in pain, which prevents them from being active. They often believe they can't do anything about it because they have never been told or shown they can.

"By helping health professionals and those living in pain change their perspectives and flip how they deal with pain, we can help people to live more active lives."

"Flippin Pain’ is a pioneering piece of work” added Paul Kreczak, executive director at Tees Valley Sport. “It's a real honour to receive this award and a fantastic testament to what can be achieved when partners collaborate”.

With 28 separate categories this year, the HSJ Partnership Award winners were announced during an impressive ceremony held at Evolution London, hosted by Miles Jupp. The event was attended by representatives from the NHS, and both the private and third sector, as well as key players from non-clinical backgrounds, all coming together to celebrate the importance of positive partnerships and acknowledging how these underpin the future sustainability of the NHS.

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HSJ editor Alastair McLellan concluded: “Almost any attempt to improve NHS productivity – the service’s greatest challenge - without working in concert with suppliers starts at a major disadvantage. Indeed, many of the best ideas for improving productivity do and will come from suppliers. Every one of the businesses on the Partnership Awards shortlist has shown the kind of thinking and determination it takes to deliver change in healthcare services. They should all be very proud of the efforts, our 28 winners especially so.”

Flippin’ Pain™ is a public health campaign which aims to change the way people think about, talk about and treat chronic pain. The innovation of Newcastle-headquartered community healthcare services provider, Connect Health its goal is to spread the word on the latest understanding of pain and give people the knowledge and skills to manage it.

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