Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS)


Chronic Pain in the UK Today: Medical, Academic, and Political Perspectives

9:00 am to 4:30 pm, 19 August 2017

Chronic Pain in the UK Today Image

Event Information

Open to



IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing, Wilkins Building

In 2008, the British Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson estimated that 7.8 million Britons live with chronic pain. This number is ever increasing: each year over 5 million people develop chronic pain, but only two-thirds will recover. The National Pain Audit, conducted 2009-2012, demonstrated that chronic pain sufferers 'endure a very low quality of life' compared to sufferers of other conditions. Moreover, 41% of the Audit's participants felt that their local pain specialist did not help them in managing or understanding their pain. Greater understanding of chronic pain is desperately needed to improve individual experiences and broader medical practices. This one-day free workshop explicitly aims to begin this essential, challenging work.

This event brings together medics, academics, activists, and people living with chronic pain to share knowledge of the latest research into chronic pain, and discuss ways to move forward. We will examine chronic pain from three perspectives: the medical, the academic, and the political. Leading experts from the field will present short, accessible presentations of their cutting-edge research findings, and offer invaluable analyses into the structures which shape the experience of living with chronic pain in the UK today.

This workshop is designed to facilitate a dynamic dialogue between those studying chronic pain, and those living with chronic pain. As such, the workshop will close with an open forum for attendees to comment on the presentations, and to share their experiences.

The workshop will be live-tweeted, to enable those not in attendance to contribute their thoughts and questions throughout the day. The workshop hashtag is #certainpain.

This is a free event, though registration on Eventbrite is essential.

All attendees will be served lunch and afternoon tea, alongside tea and coffee throughout the day. If you have any dietary requirements, please contact Alicia Spencer-Hall (a.spencer-hall [at] ucl.ac.uk).

Timings: registration 9.00-10.15am; workshop 10.30am-4.30pm

Confirmed speakers:

-Prof John Wood, one of the leading scientists working on pain today, head of UCL's Molecular Nociception Group and member of the London Pain Consortium
-Paula Bronson, NHS Clinical Specialist Physiotherapist in Persistent Pain, and UCL PhD student in Social Anthropology, investigating experiences of chronic pain in Nepal
-Dr Suellen Walker, UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital specialist in paediatric anaesthesia and acute and chronic pain management
-Dr Charlotte Blease, research fellow at the school of philosophy at University College Dublin, specialist in cognitive science, philosophy of medicine, and the ethics of the healthcare encounter
-Dr Deborah Padfield, teaching fellow at the Slade School of Fine Art, investigating the ways in which photography (and other visual media) can help patients communicate their pain, and improve communication between doctors and patients
-Nicole Brown, lecturer in Education at UCL's Institute of Education, and UCL PhD student on the impact of fibromyalgia on identity in academia
-Dr Frances Ryan, The Guardian's 'Hardworking Britain' columnist and commentator on the politics of disability under austerity
-Ian Semmons, Chairman of the national charity Action on Pain
-Emma Shephard, PhD student at Edge Hill University, researching the intersection(s) of pain, disability, and sexuality

How to get to the workshop:

-For details as to how to get to UCL on public transport, please see here.
-Please enter UCL through the gates at the Front Lodges on Gower Street (marked by the big red pin in the map below). This entrance offers the most direct route to the workshop location.
-The workshop takes place in the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS), University College London, UK. We will be in the room Common Ground which is on the Ground Floor of the South Wing in the Wilkins Building. There is a variety of seating types available for attendees in this room. We will also have a Quiet Room (the Council Room G12) available for attendees to rest and take a break, located directly opposite Common Ground.
-Please follow the route as shown in the map below to reach Common Ground from the Front Lodges. This route is wheelchair accessible.
-To consult the disabledgo.com Access Guide for the Wilkins Building, please see here. Accessible bathroom facilities are available directly next to Common Ground, and also on the Lower Ground floor (by lift).

Common Ground Map

Please register here

If you have any queries, including access requirements, please do not hesitate to contact the organiser, Alicia Spencer-Hall (a.spencer-hall [at] ucl.ac.uk).

Read the transcript of the workshop here.

Image: Jef Safi - 'rien n'a lieu que le lieu . . excepté une constellation'. (Via Flickr; CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)