Digital options to enhance patient care

Patient information about back pain

Patient information about back pain - Credit: Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

Frances Hunt has worked as a physiotherapist in South Devon musculoskeletal (MSK) services since 1989. In 2014, she won a professional leadership award for her role in service development including rapid access and self-referral into MSK physiotherapy. A key interest of Frances is improving digital options to enhance patient care

The last year has been one like never before and has brought many changes.

Our musculoskeletal outpatient service is no exception to these changes and, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, we have had to adapt and work in new and different ways.

Musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions account for 30 per cent of GP consultations in England.

Low back and neck pain are the greatest cause of years lost to disability in the UK, with chronic joint pain or osteoarthritis affecting more than 8.75 million people in the UK.

These statistics highlight that we are providing an important service to many people and last April, due to Covid-19, we had almost complete closure of our outpatient services.

The majority of our staff were redeployed to help inpatient and community services and we realised this wasn’t sustainable as the people in our community still had aches and pains they needed help with. 

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We responded quickly by developing telephone and video ‘attend anywhere’ appointments to ensure that we could continue to have contact with those who needed us most.

In addition to our support, we provide information to help you understand and manage your condition.

So, we rapidly updated our self-help resources on the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust website.

Information to help you understand and manage your condition while you wait to see a physiotherapist

Information to help you understand and manage your condition while you wait to see a physiotherapist - Credit: Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust

The website gives people access to self-help resources, information, and advice and can be found at www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/physiotherapy/   

During July, a new app for patients with hip osteoarthritis and knee osteoarthritis was launched giving local information about services for these conditions.

Named Connect Plus, it is available for both android and Apple devices. 

Our extensive online digital library which holds patient videos on a variety of topics from musculoskeletal conditions and pain management to women’s health and vestibular - inner and brain - issues was also updated.

These videos are really useful and provide support to help manage a variety of conditions.

They also provide support for people prior to attending an appointment and following an appointment. 

One patient experience tells how they really benefited from the videos: “When I attended physiotherapy for an assessment on my knee, my physio suggested I look at the exercise videos on the hospital website and download the Connect Plus app to learn more about my knee arthritis.

"I found both these resources to be easy to access, informative and helpful and I learnt a lot about how to look after, and strengthen, my knees.”  

We accept self-referrals - approximately 40 per cent of all new contacts come via this route - and referrals from GPs and other healthcare services.

You can book yourself an appointment by either calling our booking team on 0300 456 9987, Monday to Friday, between 8.30am and midday, excluding bank holidays - or by requesting an appointment via our online service, Patient Knows Best.

Find more information at www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/physiotherapy/-appointment-service/ 

We aim to see people within 72 hours, however waiting times are dependent on demand and after spending a year in a global pandemic these have unfortunately risen.

Currently, people are experiencing a four- to six-week wait as we try to catch up with appointments and also while we continue to adhere social distancing and infection control protocols.

We are working hard to reduce these waiting times and are continuing to look at innovative ideas and developments to help us meet this increased demand. 

More information on our service and how to make an appointment can be found at www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/physiotherapy/ 

A year in lockdown with many of us being restricted to our homes or working from home means that now more than ever we need to look after ourselves, keep active, eat healthily and do things that enrich both our bodies and minds.

Taking regular daily exercise and maintaining a good work life balance is essential to keeping ailments at bay.   

Our outpatient and community physio teams often signpost people to the Healthy Lifestyles Team, which can provide support to work alongside physiotherapeutic regimes and help you manage your condition.

Healthy Lifestyles Team provides a variety of free services and support to people to help people make and maintain positive changes including smoking cessation, weight management, becoming more active, diabetes management and improving mood.

Visit www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/services/healthy-lifestyles/ or call 0300 456 1006.

Frances Hunt has worked as a physiotherapist

Physiotherapist Frances Hunt. - Credit: Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust