Integrated musculoskeletal (MSK) service
Herts Valleys Integrated Musculoskeletal (MSK) Service is run by Connect Health who are commissioned by Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group to provide this service to NHS patients. The integrated service brings together a range of specialist MSK clinicians who diagnose and treat patients in community locations such as health centres, GP surgeries and gyms. This makes sure that patients can get specialist treatment and advice close to where they live rather than having to go to hospital.
About the musculoskeletal service
Musculoskeletal medicine is about treating problems such as pain, swelling or stiffness affecting your muscles, ligaments, tendons joints or bones such as your back, knees, hips, feet or hands.
Connect Health is an organisation that offers diagnosis and treatment for musculoskeletal conditions for patients in the community. Connect provides these services for the NHS in many areas around the country. They also specialise in chronic pain, chronic fatigue, ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) and fibromyalgia.
Connect has a wide range of specialists including physiotherapists, hand therapists, pain specialists, podiatrists, GPs and consultants.
Connect services and support includes:
- Pain management
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Hand therapy
- Postural stability (for patients over 65 who are at risk of a fall)
However, they do not treat problems that need emergency care such as fractures as patients would receive help for this in an urgent treatment centre or in a hospital accident and emergency department.
Benefits of the integrated community service
Many MSK problems such as back pain and joint pain can be successfully treated by a specialist MSK therapist in the community without people needing to go to a hospital for an appointment. The community MSK therapist can see you for treatment or in some cases can simply give you advice around self-care and exercises, which could be by telephone. For this reason all GPs in west Hertfordshire now refer patients to Connect Health if they need help with a MSK related problem.
Connect Health offers some services that previously were only offered in a hospital. They have hospital specialists running clinics and the aim is that these clinics and services will expand.
Accessing the service
Most patients will be referred into the service by their GP.
Connect provides a single point through which patients' care is coordinated so that people are seen by the right person for their needs and in the right place.
When your GP refers you to Connect Health, experienced clinicians will look at the information provided to decide on the best way of meeting your needs. Often this will be in the community service but and if they feel that you need hospital care you will be contacted (usually within a week) to book a hospital appointment.
Even if you have been told previously (either by a hospital specialist or private clinic) that you should be referred directly to hospital, your GP will still need to refer you first to Connect so that your needs can be assessed. This may end up with you being treated within the community but Connect might also refer you back to the specialist if they feel this is appropriate.
Connect also provides some support for patients to help them recover from an operation. In these cases you may be referred into the service by your hospital consultant.
Appointments with Connect
Unlike some NHS services, rather than always arranging for you to have a face-to-face appointment, Connect might first of all arrange a telephone appointment to talk to you about how best to organise your care.
If you use a mobile phone Connect will send you a text (SMS) message about your appointment. It is important that you let your GP know about any particular communication needs you may have so that they can pass this information onto Connect. In particular it would be helpful for your GP to know if you regularly use a mobile phone and, if you do, that your GP has your current mobile phone number. Telephone contact may not be suitable for some people, and in this situation Connect will arrange for you to have a face to face appointment.
Connect also has a web portal that you can log on to securely to find out about and manage your appointments and see electronic copies of your letters. Patients have found this service very useful. If you do not have a mobile phone or access to the internet Connect will contact you using your landline or by post.
Find out more
We have produced a patient information leaflet that explains more about the service by providing answers to questions that we are frequently asked about the Integrated MSK service provided by Connect.
You can find out more through the Connect Health website which has information about where clinics are located and also includes patient resources.