PERFORMANCE: A pilot project between Wolverhampton City PCT and charity Arthritis Research UK has halved waiting times for physiotherapy appointments and improved patient satisfaction.

Arthritis Research UK, funded new information and exercuse leaflets for musculoskeletal conditions which were placed in all 53 GP surgeries in the city to help patients self-manage their conditions.

Between October 2011 to January 2012 the number of referrals to local physiotherapy services reduced by one third.

After the leaflets were introduced waiting times for physiotherapy reduced from 10.5 weeks in December 2011 to five weeks during April, May and June this year.

The reduction in referral to physiotherapy was from a peak of 362 per month in October 2011 to 240 per month in January 2012.

Patients with a variety of back, foot, knee, neck and shoulder and other joint pain were advised to follow simple exercises as an alternative to physiotherapy.

The pilot followed a one month audit of patients in the area who didn’t attend their physiotherapy appointment. Patients revealed this was often because their condition had been resolved within four to six weeks.

Dr Helen Hibbs, chief officer, at Wolverhampton City Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is an excellent piece of work led by a clinician which has shown proven benefits to patients. By reducing referrals to physiotherapy for self-limiting conditions which improve with general advice and suggested exercises, the introduction of targeted leaflets has allowed those patients who would most benefit from physiotherapy to access the service in a timelier manner. This shows the power of clinical commissioning in action.”

Arthritis Research UK’s medical director, Professor Alan Silman, said: “This is a great example of how the clever use of patient information can enable patients to manage their own condition, freeing up physiotherapy services for patients that need them.”