Many referrals to specialists by GPs unnecessary

Many referrals to specialists by GPs unnecessary

Nearly half of patients over 75 years old seen by GPs report bone and joint complaints, but a recent study shows that around only a fraction of those referred for surgery were appropriate, with the rest needing other treatment such as pain management or physiotherapy.

At present it is estimated that over one third (17.3 million) of the UK adult population suffer from back pain.

Up to 8.5 million people have joint pain, over 4.4 million have moderate/severe osteoarthritis (degradation of joints and cartilage) and over 650,000 have inflammatory arthritis (inflammation of joints and tendons).

These problems increase with age but GPs often don’t have the expertise or resources (they can receive as little as five weeks’ training at undergraduate level) to treat them, so many patients are put on lengthy waiting lists for surgical treatment they may not require.

Out of the 391,000 patients on orthopaedic waiting lists at any one time, 50,000 wait for more than 18 weeks and more than 21,000 wait over six months.

The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh is actively tackling this UK-wide problem with an innovative new workshop aimed at GPs.

During the interactive sessions, GPs have access to prosthetics and role-playing medical students – the courses have become so popular that demand has outstripped spaces at each of the five Scottish locations where they have already been held.

The course is now being introduced at the College’s new base in Birmingham.

According to consultant orthopaedic surgeon and convener of the course Ali Mehdi, Consultant Trauma & Orthopaedic surgeon;

“Musculoskeletal disorders are common, accounting for nearly a third of GP consultations, and this is predicted to increase as the population ages. As general practitioners (GPs) are the first point of contact for patients, it is essential that they are adequately equipped to manage this large part of their workload. The objectives of this course are to provide them with the skills and support necessary to manage musculoskeletal problems in the community up to the point where surgery becomes the only option.”