Plans to reduce waiting times for patients with muscle and joint problems

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Health experts say they have had a positive response to planned changes to musculoskeletal (MSK) services.

NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex Clinical Commissioning Group revealed the plans at public meetings in Haywards Heath and Crawley.

MSK services treat thousands of people each month for a host of conditions including osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and sports injuries.

Clinical Director Dr Karen Eastman took questions from the public at the Haywards Heath meeting, and explained how the new system will be set up to reduce waiting times for appointments as well as giving patients more choice over their treatment and where they receive it.

“One of the main issues raised by patients is being passed from one specialist to another for the treatment of the same problem, with waiting times for each appointment and investigation,” she said.

“The new system should make it much easier for patients to be seen by the right clinician in the right place first time around, which will reduce waiting times.

“Patients will be given much more information about the treatment options available to them, the pros and cons, and be fully involved in shared care plans that lead to better health outcomes.”

The new MSK service will form a ‘hub and spoke’ arrangement. GPs will initially refer patients into one of three specialist centres (‘hubs’) covering rheumatology, podiatry, orthopaedics, psychology, pain management and physiotherapy services. These centres will house additional diagnostic services such as X-rays and mobile MRI scanners. An assessment team will then build a package of care suited to each patient.

Facilities located in the heart of communities (‘spokes’) will provide physio treatment, minor podiatry procedures and follow up appointments – for example after hip or knee surgery.

Key issues raised by the public which are incorporated into the future service outline include access to hubs by public transport, reduced waiting times for test results and parking facilities.

Horsham resident Derek Williams, said: “If it’s a service that is joined up and is able to direct people to the right person instead of bouncing them around, I think it’s going to improve what we have.

“If we have a service that is designed for the next five to 10 years that cuts out waste and makes every pound we spend give good value, then it can only be to everyone’s good. Setting it up now should hopefully serve our children and the next generation.”

Resident Stephen Tullett said: “Instead of the GP deciding to send you for physiotherapy you will have more choice about which treatment options are available. I think people will be better informed under this new system.”

The new system is expected to be up and running by mid-to-late 2014.