PATIENTS with complaints such as arthritis and hip and knee conditions are feeling the benefits of care closer to home, say healthcare providers.

Specialist clinics for people with musculoskeletal problems have been introduced at Grange-over-Sands, Kendal, Barrow and Millom - with 3,692 appointments held since December 2016.

The new service is designed to make sure patients are seen "by the right person first time", says Bay Health and Care Partners, which includes the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust.

Healthcare professionals have praised the integrated musculoskeletal programme - known as iMSK - for saving people travel time and money. It is also helping to free up orthopaedic surgeons so they can spend more time with patients who need surgery.

Andy Knox, GP executive lead for Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “By bringing care for these conditions into the community and making them easier to access, patients living with musculoskeletal conditions will get the care they need more quickly, improve their quality of life and be enabled to live with these conditions with a better understanding of how to help themselves or to access the help they need.”

As James Geary, extended scope physiotherapist for the hospitals trust, explained: “Patients are seen by experienced clinicians to diagnose and treat musculoskeletal conditions through assessment, radiological investigations, blood tests and joint injections that were traditionally provided in an orthopaedic clinic. Patients are seen locally and it also takes pressure off the orthopaedic teams.”

Ulverston GP Judith Neaves said clinicians in the service worked closely with orthopaedic surgeons, rheumatology and pain clinics, with cases discussed regularly.

"All referrals to orthopaedics and iMSK are reviewed before appointments are allocated to ensure you are seen by the most appropriate person," said Dr Neaves. " If after diagnosis and treatment in iMSK you continue to have a problem they can refer you directly to the consultant.”

The work taking place across Morecambe Bay is having "some really positive results" for people living with conditions such as arthritis, hip and knee problems and minor fractures, said Sue Smith, executive chief nurse and deputy chief executive at the hospitals trust.