UK healthcare services for people with fibromyalgia

UK healthcare services for people with fibromyalgia

What is the background to this study?

Fibromyalgia is a long-term health condition that affects around 2.5 million people in the UK. It can have a big impact on people’s lives, but treatment and management can help.

Recommendations for management focus on non-drug treatments. However, research shows that healthcare professionals do not always follow treatment guidance and people with fibromyalgia report being unhappy with the care they receive.   

What did we want to find out?

We wanted to find out what current healthcare for people with fibromyalgia living in the UK is like, specifically:

  • Which healthcare professionals diagnose fibromyalgia?
  • Which healthcare professionals treat people with fibromyalgia and what treatments do they provide?
  • If there are any gaps in current healthcare services for people with fibromyalgia and if so, what are they?

What did we do?

We carried out two online surveys. The first was of NHS healthcare professionals working with people with fibromyalgia. The second was of people with fibromyalgia using non-NHS services to manage their condition.

What did we find?

We received 1701 responses from different types of healthcare professionals across the UK, and 549 responses from people with fibromyalgia. We found that:

  • NHS services for people with fibromyalgia vary greatly. Only a few professionals report having a pathway of care for people with fibromyalgia within their workplace.
  • 3 out of 10 general practitioners report not diagnosing fibromyalgia. Reasons given for this include a lack of skill and confidence, uncertainty about whether fibromyalgia is a distinct condition and opinions that the diagnosis may not help patients. Many general practitioners feel that there is not much support for them to manage people with fibromyalgia in the community.
  • NHS professionals report limited availability of non-drug treatments, such as psychological therapies for people with fibromyalgia. Education and drugs are the treatments offered most. A lack of available services was the number one reason given by people with fibromyalgia for their use of non-NHS services.

Why does this matter?

The findings from this research will be used as a baseline from which to develop new models of care to improve outcomes for people with fibromyalgia living in the UK.

Who funded this study?

This study is part of the PACFiND programme of work which is funded by Versus Arthritis

Where can I read more?

Click here for access to the full paper.