The partnership sees Ipswich Hospital provide all hospital-based care, including trauma services and physiotherapy for post-surgical patients and those referred by a consultant. AHPS, which is a not-for-profit social enterprise, provides MSK physiotherapy for GP referrals as well as self-referrals.
All calls are triaged by AHPS within 48 hours and given self-care advice or referred to the most appropriate service to meet the patients’ needs. Patients are also given tailored exercises so that the can begin their recovery immediately while waiting for an appointment.
Since its launch in October, the physiotherapy service has consistently met waiting time targets, with the average wait among the best in the country at 1.1 weeks.
In addition, a further initiative called ‘enhanced recovery’ has also been introduced to improve care, and sees AHPS provide exercises to prepare patients for joint replacement or spinal surgery. As a result, the average length of hospital stay has reduced by two days as patients are better able to make a quick recovery.
Wendy Webb, senior projects manager at Ipswich Hospital, helped develop the new-look service alongside David Cumming, clinical lead at the hospital, Dr David Egan from the CCG, Jo Douglas from AHPS and many other colleagues. She said: “This is a great example of a true partnership which sees all providers work together across organisational boundaries for the benefit of patients.
“The whole concept is about supporting patients in the community wherever possible and only bringing them into hospital when necessary. This is not only more convenient for the patient, but also frees up our consultants’ time so that they can focus on those in the greatest clinical need.
“Access for patients has also vastly improved, as they can refer themselves into the service quickly and easily without first having to see a GP.
“Providing seamless, easy to access services has not only enhanced the experience our patients have when receiving care, but has also reduced pressure on the local health system by helping us manage demand and make sure people are seen in the right place first time.”
As part of the new-look service, people can also get a wide range of help and advice for MSK problems on the AHPS website, including exercises they can try at home for more minor conditions. If they do need to self-refer, they can do so online or via a single point of contact phone line.
“Our single point of contact is a really important gatekeeper as it makes sure people are going to the right place,” said Jo Douglas, chief executive of AHPS. “It also gives our team the chance to recommend exercises and give advice, which encourages patients to take an active role in their treatment and can sometimes prove such a help that the patient no longer needs an onward referral.
“For example, a lady recently contacted us after hurting her back while on holiday. We sent her exercises to follow while she was away, and she later emailed us to say she was better and no longer needed our help. In the past, she would have had to wait until she got home to book an appointment with her GP before she could be referred to a physio.”
The service was developed by clinicians and commissioners, who worked closely together to review best practice and create the new pathways to make the patient journey more effective. Members of IHUG (Ipswich Hospital User Group) and JAMS, the hospital’s Joint Action Musculoskeletal group, were also involved to make sure the service truly reflected the needs of the patient.
Dr Egan, MSK lead with the CCG, said: “By promoting self-care, the service is reducing pressure on GPs and making best use of consultant’s time by ensuring they only see the patients who really need their expertise. It is also making really good use of limited NHS resources and ensuring we get the best value for money.
“One of the main reasons the service has proved so successful is because it has been led by clinicians and fully supported by our local GPs, who really appreciate the benefits it is bringing.
“All partners are equally motivated to make sure service is a success. It has also been held up as an exemplar for others to aspire to while we’ve been asked to share our learning with others from elsewhere in the country.”
A wide range of self-care advice and exercises for a variety of MSK problems is also available on the website.