The Pennine MSK Partnership in Oldham, Greater Manchester, led by GPs and GPSIs, has halved the time to first appointment and improved symptom scores and treatment access.
Outcomes data were unveiled at the Rheumatology 2012 conference in Glasgow last week by rheumatology specialist nurse Jill Firth PhD, a member of the partnership.
Dr Firth said the service was ‘leading the way and providing an example’ of how clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) can commission effective care.
GPSI Dr Louise Warburton, president of the Primary Care Rheumatology Society, said partnerships like the one in Oldham gave GPs greater input into local service design.
‘Our service in Telford is similar,’ she said. ‘Because we have such good relationships with local GPs, if they’re not happy, they tell us and we can change things so that patients get a better experience. If instead it’s a hospital service, it’s remote – as a GP you feel you’ve no input really over what happens.’
Dr Warburton said CCGs themselves must also begin to talk to GPs about local needs in musculoskeletal services. ‘For example, in my area, there are lots of people with chronic pain,’ she said. ‘GPs have no pathways at the moment to refer those patients.’
The Oldham service provides a musculoskeletal service worth £23m. This deals with around 9,500 referrals a year, offering an infusion service, podiatry, physiotherapy and occupational and psychological therapy.
A regional audit in 2011 found that patients using the service waited just 19 days for a first outpatient appointment, following referral by their GP, compared with 45 days on average across the region.
It also found that 69% of patients had DAS-28 scores taken every four to six weeks until treated to target as against 31% regionally.
In addition, 15% of eligible RA patients received biologic treatment, compared with 6% on average in the UK and 8-12% across Europe.
Ann Todd, finance director at Pennine MSK Partnership, said its model could be adopted by the PCT for managing other disease areas.