A&E ‘Stretched To The Limit’

Sport and Exercise Medicine Potential to be Fully Recognised by NHS

In response to the report ‘Stretched to the Limit’ by the College of Emergency Medicine, The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine releases key findings from its own fellows and members survey Delivery of SEM in the NHS* and calls on NHS Commissioners to consider the specialty to assist in solving some of the immediate pressures in the NHS.

The Faculty commissioned the survey to look into existing NHS Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) pathways in recognition of the fact that Sport and Exercise Medicine has a key role to play in reducing the future demands on healthcare, including A&E departments, through investment in the important component of the speciality in Exercise Medicine. The survey reveals that there is currently very little SEM provision in the NHS. The potential of SEM is yet to be fully recognised or utilised by most NHS commissioners.

Dr Graeme Wilkes, Fellow of the Faculty and Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine comments:“The results show there is a very skilled workforce developing within Sport and Exercise Medicine with potential to address some of the current issues in musculoskeletal medicine, a key aspect of Emergency Department presentations.

“Sport and Exercise Medicine Consultants and GPs with a Special Interest in Sport and Exercise Medicine could be co-ordinating pre -hospital care of musculoskeletal problems and relieving the demand on emergency departments now. There are already examples of such activity and very favourable results involving Sport and Exercise Medicine.”

The Newcastle West Pilot Study is one example of how SEM can relieve the pressure on the NHS, it can be found following this link

SEM as a speciality is currently not exposed to the demands on the other musculoskeletal specialities of Rheumatology and Orthopaedics. The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine would like more NHS Commissioners to consider the role of the speciality of SEM in solving some immediate NHS problems.

There is also a need for the NHS to invest in co-ordinated programmes of physical activity, for which there is a strong evidence base.  As suggested by the Kings Fund analysis of A&E waiting times, the solution to the problem is in the whole system and Sport and Exercise Medicine should be considered as a key component if this is to be realised.

The Faculty of Sport & Exercise Medicine’s main findings on the current provision of Sport and Exercise Medicine services in the NHS:

  • The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine has a membership mainly working outside the NHS in team care 71% or private clinics 53%
  • 57% of members surveyed currently provide an SEM service to the NHS. However members who do work with the NHS are dedicating a small part of their working week to the NHS with 50% working only 1-2 sessions per week
  • Only 1% of members surveyed are working in Emergency Medicine (Musculoskeletal)
  • 6% of members surveyed are working in Orthopaedics
  • 4% of members surveyed are working in Rheumatology
  • Hospitals are currently the main SEM NHS employers
  • In future, SEM services for the NHS are best sited in the community


Notes to Editors:

  • *Delivery of SEM in the NHS research report, commissioned during July and August 2013, was based on a research survey of 83 members and fellows of the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine.
  • The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine was launched in 2006 and is an intercollegiate faculty of the Royal College of Physicians of London and the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh
  • The Faculty has over 550 Members and Fellows, not including medical students
  • There are around 70 SEM Specialists registered with the General Medical Council
  • The FSEM not only sets standards in SEM but oversees research, training, curriculum and assessment of SEM Doctors, including providing revalidation services
  • Sport and Exercise Medicine involves the medical care or injury and illness in sport and exercise. It requires accurate diagnoses, careful clinical examination, experience and knowledge of sport and exercise specific movement patterns. SEM practitioners work in a variety of settings across primary, secondary and tertiary care. The specialty has a large scale application in improving the health of the general public through exercise advice and prescription. Further information about the specialty can be found in the Media & Resources section at


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For further information contact Beth Cameron, PR & Communications for the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine;

Email:, Tel: 0131 527 3498, Mobile: 07551903702