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Scottish Universities and NHS Scotland boast some important centres of internationally-competitive pain research.  This covers the full scientific range, from the laboratory to the community, and encompasses important clinical areas such as addiction, cancer, primary care, neuropathic pain and mental health. The Scottish Pain Research Community (SPaRC) was established, with support from Scottish Government, in 2009 to develop this expertise for patient benefit.

SPaRC has a steering committee, with multidisciplinary membership representing a wide range of expertise (basic science, clinical, population health science). SPaRC is a much wider network of pain researchers, clinicians, third sector organisations, patient groups and other key stakeholders across Scotland. SPaRC brings around 200 researchers in multiple disciplines and areas together, to promote collaboration and to share and disseminate research activity and findings.

SPaRC promotes the aspirations that:

  • Clinical practice in managing chronic pain is informed by current research
  • Current research in chronic pain is relevant to clinical practice.

Scottish Pain Research Community (SPaRC) 8th Annual Scientific Meeting

The SPaRC 8th Annual Scientific Meeting took place on 23rd March 2018 at West Park Conference Centre, Dundee. An abstract of all keynote presentations can be downloaded to view.

Successes to date

  • A successful proposal to the Scottish Intercollegiate Guideline Network (SIGN) to produce the first SIGN guideline on chronic pain assessment and management. SIGN Guideline development group established (Chair L Colvin). SIGN Guideline 136: Management of Chronic Pain was completed on time (Dec 2013), and has been well received
  • Annual Scientific Meetings: The aim of these is to further the above aims, to showcase Scottish pain research and to develop a strong network of pain researchers in Scotland. We have held seven Annual Scientific Meetings (March 2011 - 2017) to date. These have been attended by around 100 delegates on each occasion, and have allowed presentation of current and recent Scottish research on pain. We have also had keynote lectures from internationally renowned pain specialists, including 5 presidents of the main international pain organisation - the International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP). This has also generated international interest in developments in Scottish Pain Services, with an invited article in the IASP newsletter last year. Discussions arising from these ASMs have led directly to successful research funding applications
  • Filling research gaps identified by SIGN 136. One of these was the use of opioids for chronic pain, an area of growing concern. Through SPaRC, a successful collaboration gained CSO funding to study this. This project is now complete, with a number of presentations at international meetings, and publications in preparation, plus further funding applications in progress to extend this work
  • The Management of Chronic Pain in Children and Young People. A National Clinical Guideline. The SIGN Guideline on Chronic Pain (SIGN 136) did not include paediatric pain in its remit, as the evidence base was limited. Feedback from key stakeholders indicated a need for expert guidance on managing paediatric chronic pain. While recognising there is limited high quality evidence, this working group combined multidisciplinary expertise to review available evidence and reach consensus. Delivery of good quality, timely care underpinned by the best available evidence is important. The consultation for this guideline was officially launched at the SPaRC ASM in March 2017. Following this consultation period the Scottish Medical and Scientific Advisory Committee (SMASAC) have submitted the final version of the guideline to the Scottish Government.

Future developments

  • To develop a formal network of Principal Investigators/ active researchers across Scotland to provide an effective route for increasing multicentre studies, working with NHS Research Scotland, which will include assessment of novel interventions for chronic pain
  • To strengthen research links within Scotland to foster academic collaboration and to address research gaps
  • To continue with ASMs, where pain researchers, clinicians, patients and third sector organisations can hear about the latest Scottish pain research and network.

SPaRC Steering Committee

Professor Lesley Colvin (Chair) - Consultant in Anaesthesia & Pain Medicine, Edinburgh/ Hon Professor, Universities of Edinburgh and Dundee.
Professor Blair H. Smith - National Lead Clinician for Chronic Pain, Scottish Government, Professor of Population Science University of Dundee.
Dr Fiona A. Bull - Clinical Lecturer, The Scottish Clinical Research Excellence Development Scheme (SCREDS), The University of Dundee.
Dr Paul A. Cameron - Lead Advanced Practice Physiotherapist, NHS Fife Pain Management Service; National Chronic Pain Coordinator.
Professor Sue Fleetwood-Walker - Chair of Sensory Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh.
Professor Tim G. Hales - Director Institute of Academic Anaesthesia, Centre for Neuroscience, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School.
Professor Gary J. Macfarlane - Professor of Epidemiology, University of Aberdeen.
Dr Kathryn Martin - Lecturer in Epidemiology, University of Aberdeen.
Dr Colin Rae - Consultant in Anaesthesia & Pain Management, Lead clinician of Greater Glasgow & Clyde Pain MCN.

Dr Mick Serpell - Senior Lecturer & Consultant in Anaesthetics & Pain Management, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde.
Dr Lars Williams - Consultant in Anaesthesia & Pain Management, Greater Glasgow & Clyde Pain MCN, National Residential Pain Management Centre.

Key Contacts

Chair of the SPaRC Committee: Professor Lesley Colvin

National Lead Clinician for Chronic Pain: Professor Blair H Smith

Research Assistant - SPaRC: Cara Richardson

Performance Manager: Janet Gilchrist