Many British patients are receiving inadequate chronic pain management, a report has revealed.
The Pain Proposal European Consensus Report shows that people in the UK have to wait three years on average to get a diagnosis and a further three years for adequate management plans - twice as long as some European countries.
Chronic pain, which affects one in five people in Europe, costs the NHS £69m every year with 4.6 million GP appointments for complaints such as back pain, joint problems and arthritis.
In Italy, France and Belgium people receive the necessary treatment in half the time it takes to get it right in Britain.
The study suggests that chronic pain is not being taken seriously enough in the UK, with more than 50% of sufferers questioned believing people doubt the existence of the condition. Over a quarter of people surveyed had been accused of using it as an easy excuse to get out of work.
But the research noted that sufferers indicated the condition impedes their ability to work for over a third of the day, while 40% of people are unable to work.
The report has been developed in consultation with over 50 experts including doctors, policy experts and patient group representatives from 15 European countries.