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Planned Care and Cancer programme - First Contact Practitioners helping to transform local services

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Muscle, bone and joint problems, also known as musculoskeletal (MSK) issues are the biggest cause of work absence and physical disability in the UK.

Almost a third of all primary care consultations are related to MSK, while 10% of all GP referrals are for patients experiencing muscle, bone and joint problems.

Traditional referrals to specialist MSK services require a patient to see their GP before being put on a waiting list; for example access to physiotherapy treatment. This can lead to delays in access to treatment, increased GP workload and, on occasion to inappropriate referrals being made.

It’s a key priority for the programme and we’re working to address it by introducing a dedicated team of First Contact Practitioners (FCP) in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent who have the advanced skills to assess, diagnose and manage patients with musculoskeletal issues.

FCPs build on the work already done within the programme to redesign MSK services for hips, knees, shoulders and low back pain and we were delighted to support a recent FCP event held by Keele University that brought together local health and care leaders to review the most up to date evidence for these roles, the partnership work that has already taken place locally and discuss how this can be developed further.

A First Contact Practitioner service enables patients who would usually see their GP with a muscle, bone and joint problem to have direct access to a Practitioner for assessment/treatment and advice.

We currently have two FCP pilot sites operating in Newcastle-under-Lyme and Eccleshall and a third pilot in Cannock is due to get underway soon. We will also be looking to establish another pilot in one of the integrated health and care hubs in Stoke on Trent/North Staffordshire. The progress of these pilots will be reviewed at the end of 2018/19 with the intention of rolling out FCPs across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent later in 2019.