A team of researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) are investigating psychological interventions to help people with chronic pain in the UK get back to work and stay at work.

They are leading a £268,000 research project, funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), the research partner of the NHS, public health and social care.

About one in three UK adults suffer from chronic pain, which is pain that lasts three months or more. Chronic pain is a leading cause of disability and over one-third of people with chronic pain cannot work or are struggling to hold onto their jobs.

Chronic pain sufferers need support to stay in work because being unable to work has knock-on effect on their quality of life and can lead to debt, mental illness, loss of confidence and feelings of isolation.

The 18-month project will involve three researchers from GCU’s School of Health Sciences’ Research Centre for Health (ReaCH), in collaboration with the Universities of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Monash in Australia, an individual with the lived experience of chronic pain and a clinician working in practice.

Expert in chronic pain at GCU and Reader in Health Psychology Dr Jo McParland is Principal Investigator for the project with GCU researchers Professor in Nursing Lisa Kidd and Physiotherapy Research Fellow Dr Ukay Abaraogu as project Co-Investigators.

Dr McParland explained: “We know that good and valued work improves health and wellbeing. We are carrying out a systematic review to find out which psychological interventions work best to help people into work after unemployment, get back to work following a period of sick leave and stay in work. We want to find out what underpins an intervention and the behaviour change techniques that help to explain how this intervention works.”

Patient and public involvement will be at the centre of their investigation to identify which interventions have the best effect. They have set up an advisory group and plan to hold a series of stakeholder events to interpret the findings from the review and translate them into practice.