Specialist clinics for those with Musculo-skeletal conditions in south Cumbria becomes permanent

A new service for patients referred to the orthopaedic service – where they see a physiotherapist in special clinics rather than a consultant surgeon - has become permanent after an eight month trial period.

In the integrated musculo-skeletal (iMSK) service (a collaboration of different health providers and commissioners across the area including University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT)) clinically triaged patients are reviewed by a community based physiotherapy-led service, which has resulted in significant reductions in referrals to a surgeon for review.

Since its launch last December the new service has seen 507 new patients in community clinics at Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal and at Dalton, near Barrow-in-Furness, which have resulted in a significant reduction in referrals to an Orthopaedic surgeon.

Nigel Courtman, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon for UHMBT, said: “It is fantastic that the service is now permanent. You can see from the figures that the service has been a success.

“The iMSK service for patients living in Cumbria has been a long time coming. The concept is not new, and there are many well established services throughout the UK including a very successful one on our doorstep, based in Heysham.

“Many patients with musculoskeletal problems don’t to see an Orthopaedic Surgeon as their first contact. A large part of their assessment and treatment can be based on physical therapy, and indeed many patients have up until now eventually ended up being treated by other medical professionals rather than undergoing an operation.

“Patients referred into the service are receiving a high quality service delivered by specialist physiotherapists who are able to diagnose, investigate and treat a multitude of conditions that do not require surgery.

“Patients are being seen in a quicker, timely, manner and the feedback we are receiving is excellent. This will also mean that patients who do need to be seen by a hospital specialist will be seen quicker."

James Geary, Advanced Physiotherapist for UHMBT within the iMSK service, said: “Patients are also getting more time with us in the iMSK setting compared to when they see a consultant, so potentially we can give them more advice on the complaint they’ve got which goes a long way in helping the patient manage the condition they have got.”

Dee Houghton, Associate Director of Operations for South Community Services at CPFT, added: “This is another great example of how working together as one health system allows us to better meet the needs of local people. Innovative ways of working, like the iMSK service, help us to continually improve services and ensure we are providing the best possible patient care.”

The new service has been developed as part of the Better Care Together strategy.

Better Care Together is the clinically led strategy for ensuring health and care services across Morecambe Bay can remain safe, are of a consistently high standard, and can be financially sustained not just for the next five years but well into the future.