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BACKGROUND: We investigated the feasibility of recruiting patients unemployed for more than 3 months with chronic pain using a range of methods in primary care in order to conduct a pilot trial of Individual Placement and Support (IPS) to improve quality of life outcomes for people with chronic pain. METHODS: This research was informed by people with chronic pain. We assessed the feasibility of identification and recruitment of unemployed patients; the training and support needs of employment support workers to integrate with pain services; acceptability of randomisation, retention through follow-up and appropriate outcome measures for a definitive trial. Participants randomised to IPS received integrated support from an employment support worker and a pain occupational therapist to prepare for, and take up, a work placement. Those randomised to Treatment as Usual (TAU) received a bespoke workbook, delivered at an appointment with a research nurse not trained in vocational rehabilitation. RESULTS: Using a range of approaches, recruitment through primary care was difficult and resource-intensive (1028 approached to recruit 37 eligible participants). Supplementing recruitment through pain services, another 13 people were recruited (total n = 50). Randomisation to both arms was acceptable: 22 were allocated to IPS and 28 to TAU. Recruited participants were generally not 'work ready', particularly if recruited through pain services. CONCLUSION: A definitive randomised controlled trial is not currently feasible for recruiting through primary care in the UK. Although a trial recruiting through pain services might be possible, participants could be unrepresentative in levels of disability and associated health complexities. Retention of participants over 12 months proved challenging, and methods for reducing attrition are required. The intervention has been manualised.

Original publication




Journal article


Prim health care res dev

Publication Date





chronic pain, pilot, quality of life, recruitment, vocational rehabilitation