A new method for health professionals to refer patients for musculoskeletal (MSK) treatment is about to launch in Northamptonshire – with an ambition to deliver joined-up and consistent access to services for the whole of the county.

Northamptonshire Health and Care Partnership has supported the development of the new MSK Referral Hub, which provides a single point of access for all the county’s referrals for patients with joint, bone and muscle problems.

Musculoskeletal disability is one of the most common long-term conditions, with MSK problems affecting a quarter of the adult population and accounting for nearly one in three GP consultations in England.

The new hub has been developed by a project team with membership from all NHCP partner organisations, and its design was informed by engaging with local clinicians to understand their views and their experiences of previous referral methods. It is endorsed and supported by all Northamptonshire’s NHS providers and clinical commissioning groups, and once established is expected to handle more than 50,000 referrals every year.

By creating a single point of access for musculoskeletal referrals with a standardised management and assessment process, the new hub will give patients better and more equal access to local MSK services, regardless of where they live in the county – and result in shorter waiting times.

The clinical assessment model will always direct referrals to the most appropriate service while supporting patients to choose the best service for their individual needs, enabling clear and joined-up pathways of care to be developed and empowering patients to manage their wider health and wellbeing as part of a long-term care plan.

The new hub will also help to reduce GP workload with one form covering all MSK referrals, a single point of contact in place for follow-up queries and patients treatment pathways managed fully within the service.

The implementation of the new MSK Referral Hub begins this month with the launch of the single point of access and the referral management centre, with clinical assessment for all orthopaedic and MSK therapy referrals set to start in April.

Further work will then take place through 2020/21, including the development of pain management assessment, work to support patients with rheumatology and complex MSK needs, and establishment of links to public health services supporting improved health and wellbeing.

This work responds to the ‘Personalised Care’ category of our community’s Big Ideas for the future of local health and care