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Sport and Exercise Medicine in pilot study that reduces costs to NHS

SEM specialists have been part of a pilot that has improved care and cut waiting times for patients with muscular and joint pain saving the NHS tens of thousands of pounds.

Newcastle West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) worked with Connect Physical Health and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to improve care for patients with musculoskeletal conditions. Improvements introduced between 2010 and 2012 include:

  • All physiotherapy referrals coordinated via a specialised ‘call referral management’ centre, ensuring patients are dealt with promptly and efficiently.
  • Patients received physiotherapy at GP practices which helped reduce waiting times, hospital visits and reduced the demand for invasive surgery.
  • A one-to-one expert physiotherapy telephone assessment and advice consultation service, enabling patients to access immediate guidance from the comfort of their own home.
  • Specialists in sport and exercise medicine and orthopaedics part of the clinical assessment team, enabling patients to access specialist help within the community setting.

A study of the pilot published in HSJ on the 2nd May, revealed that 96% of patients rated the care they received as excellent or very good and 97% of GPs said the service was better or much better than it was in 2010.

The pilot enabled the partnership to deliver 62% more patient care in 2012 than was delivered in 2010, whilst still reducing overall expenditure.

The results were taken over a six month period and catered for a population of just 77,000 patients, however if you were to apply them to a typical CCG patient population of 200,000 – you could expect estimated savings of £220,000, in just one year.

Dr Graeme Wilkes, Clinical Lead for Connect Physical Health and Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine comments: “Connect Physical Health worked closely with GPs and stakeholders to help develop new pathways looking at how patients are referred for care. Rather than being automatically, and often un-necessarily, referred to secondary care such as orthopaedics, neurosurgery and rheumatology, which can often result in lengthy waiting times, patients were instead referred to a physiotherapist in their local community setting within six days or specialists within the community setting.

“The UK is challenged with a population that is living longer than ever before, resulting in an increasing number of people facing muscular and joint pain as their bodies’ age. We must seek new ways of dealing with their musculoskeletal problems quickly and efficiently, in a location close to their home for convenience and provide quality and early care for them. The pilot demonstrates a workable, successful solution for how this can be achieved.”

Dr Guy Pilkington, GP Chair for Newcastle West CCG said: “The pilot has been a great success – increasing the number of patients receiving treatment, improving the quality of care and saving the NHS money. I would recommend that any hospital trust or CCG wanting to improve the service they provide in tough economic times, should have a good look at the example of this pilot.”

To see the full news story and watch the video featuring Dr Graeme Wilkes click here.

News source: Connect Physical Health