Torture-survivors' experiences of healthcare services for pain : a qualitative study

Board, Daniel, Childs, Susan and Boulton, Richard (2021) Torture-survivors' experiences of healthcare services for pain : a qualitative study. British Journal of Pain, 15(3), pp. 291-301. ISSN (print) 2049-4637


Background: Increasing numbers of torture-survivors are presenting to UK healthcare services with persistent pain. However, there is a paucity of evidence surrounding the management of persistent pain among torture-survivors and their experience of healthcare services for pain is currently unknown. This qualitative study explores their experiences of services for managing pain, to inform clinical practice and service provision. Methods: Thirteen participants were recruited from a specialist pain clinic for torture-survivors in the United Kingdom. Utilising an ethnographic approach, data were collected via clinic appointment observations, interviews and medical records and analysed using inductive thematic analysis. Results: Three themes emerged in relation to torture-survivors’ experiences of healthcare services for pain: the patient–clinician relationship; multiplicity of diagnoses and treatments; lack of service integration. Participants described limited engagement in decision-making processes regarding their care. Lack of recognition of torture experience when diagnosing and treating pain, alongside multiple unsuccessful treatments, led to confusion, frustration and hopelessness. These issues were exacerbated by the disconnect between physical and mental health services. Conclusion: This study provides new insight into the challenges faced by torture-survivors when accessing healthcare services for pain. Our findings suggest current service provision is not meeting their complex needs. Clinical implications include the need for integrated care systems and better recognition of the influence of torture experience on persistent pain. Strategies to engage and empower torture-survivors in the management of their pain are suggested.

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