MORE than 200 patients have been seen since ‘first contact’ physiotherapists were introduced at GP practices in the Morecambe Bay area.

The new clinics, which started in November, are being trialled at Ashtrees Health Centres in Ulverston, Carnforth and Dalton and at Bay Medical Group in Morecambe.

Patients suffering from musculoskeletal problems such as back and knee pain and sprained ankles can refer themselves to 'first contact' physiotherapists when they make an appointment at their GP surgery. The physiotherapists can offer patients advice, exercises and information on managing their condition long-term which frees up GPs’ time to lead, manage and spend on other patients.

Charity Bamforth, a 'first contact' physiotherapist in Ulverston, sees up to 14 patients a day offering 40-minute sessions. She has seen more than 100 patients since November 2018 and only six of these patients have been referred on to the Integrated Musculoskeletal Service (iMSK) service and outpatient physiotherapy.

“The service really is about improving patient care and experience and we have had some great feedback so far from those who have used the service – not only does it give them faster access but we have more time to spend with an individual," said Charity. "It is also empowering patients, giving them the right advice to manage conditions themselves and getting them faster access to this advice."

Dr Alison Johnston, from Dr Johnston and Partners in Ulverston, said: “It is fantastic having Charity working with us. We are already seeing a difference in our referral rates and patients are better able to manage their own conditions. They now can see a physiotherapist directly without having to see their GP first.”

There are now plans to extend the service to other practices including in Sedbergh, Kirkby Lonsdale, Askam and Millom.

Musculoskeletal conditions affect the joints, bones and muscles, and also include rarer autoimmune diseases and back pain. They affect one in four of the adult population (many being young and of working age) which is around 9.6 million adults and 12,000 children in the UK and account for 30 per cent of GP consultations in England.