By offering people choice in health and care services such as back and neck pain services, in the years ahead we expect to see more services being offered by a much wider range of NHS, private and voluntary providers. The service already being provided in this way across North East Essex is described in the case study below.
Manual Therapies Back and Neck Service, NHS North East Essex
- NHS North East Essex wanted to provide greater choice, easier access and shorter waiting times for patients suffering back and neck pain and at the same time address the unsustainably high demand on local spinal services.
- In 2008, all existing providers were contacted and invited to bid to offer patients these services.
- Patients can now choose from 20 different providers of chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy based throughout the Colchester and Tendering area. There are four chiropractic, five osteopathy and 11 physiotherapy providers to choose from and they all meet NHS standards and agreed prices. Patients are given an appointment within two weeks and receive up to four treatments.
- During 2009/10, 2,810 patients used these services and 97% of patients were seen within two weeks of referral.
- Providers are working to locally agreed common referral and clinical protocols and whilst there is competition, there is also cooperation between individual providers and disciplines to ensure service integration for patients.
- Evaluation after the first 12 months of offering patients a choice of any qualified provider has identified improved patient access and choice meaning early treatment and improved outcomes; and reduced primary care consultations, imaging, medication costs and inappropriate referrals to secondary care. Referrals to spinal surgeons have reduced by more than 25%.
- In 2009, this approach to offering chiropractic, osteopathy and physiotherapy services to treat back and neck conditions was awarded the NHS Alliance ‘Acorn Award’ for alternative therapy.