GPs and Physiotherapists join forces for improved patient care

A pilot is running in GP practices in Carlisle and Eden that allows patients to see an MSK Practitioner without the need for a GP referral.

Physiotherapists from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) are working jointly with GPs from the Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to ensure that when a patient contacts a surgery with joint or muscle pain an appointment or telephone consultation can be arranged so that they are seen quicker, and by the most appropriate person, saving time for both the patient and GP.

The pilot, currently running at selected Penrith and Carlisle GP surgeries, sees physiotherapists based in the surgery. Appointments can be made directly with a Musculoskeletal Service (MSK) Practitioner instead of a GP, reducing the need for a GP appointment and subsequent referral, resulting in improved patient care with reduced waiting times.

Catherine Bird, MSK Team Lead at CPFT, who is leading the pilot at The Lakes Medical Practice and The Birkbeck Medical Group in Penrith, said: “The first point of contact being with an MSK practitioner enables people with joint and muscle pain to be seen quickly, by the right person at the right time, enabling their pathway of care to be as smooth as possible. This is great as it enables GP's time to become available to see other conditions.” 

In February and March 108 appointments were made with the MSK Practitioner in The Lakes Medical Practice and in The Birkbeck Medical Group 95 appointments took place in a month.

Dr Rachel Preston, The Lakes Medical Practice, commented: “Having an MSK practitioner working alongside our practice team has been fantastic. Patients can get direct assessments ranging from telephone advice, face to face review or further tests and referrals if required. We can also discuss queries we might have about people with musculoskeletal problems to learn and share best practice. Feedback from our patients about the service has been excellent – they love it too.”

The pilot has also been running at Carlisle Healthcare.  Between January and March this year 208 patients have been seen by an MSK practitioner at the practice. 

Sally Bennett, Extended Scope Practitioner at CPFT, is taking part in the pilot at Carlisle Healthcare: “At Carlisle Healthcare there are 48 appointment slots for MSK practitioners, each lasting for 30 minutes. This extra time allows us to not only treat the patient but to give them the tools to go away and self-care, and in most cases there has been no need for any follow up reviews.

“It is reducing referrals to secondary care as well as freeing up GP time, and it means that patients are receiving the right care from the most appropriate person.” 

Patient feedback on the new service has been positive so far, and there is potential for the pilot to be extended across the county in the future.