People with musculoskeletal conditions will have better access to holistic care

Date posted: 25th March 2022

Morecambe Bay’s Integrated Musculoskeletal (iMSK) Service has moved its Kendal base from Westmorland General Hospital to Kendal Leisure Centre in the community.

This will give approximately 3,500 people per year with complex musculoskeletal conditions better access to holistic care, closer to home.

A holistic care approach means ‘treating the whole patient’ including advice on lifestyle, fitness and psychological issues and the iMSK team will work collaboratively with lifestyle, fitness and wellbeing professionals from the leisure centre to support and signpost patients with chronic pain.

A key technique the iMSK service uses is Shared Decision Making which empowers patients to take a view on their care and make an informed decision on what is the best route for them. The service also uses a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach to discuss patients with complex care needs and the best options and support available to them.

The collaborative approach between the iMSK service and the leisure centre is part of the Local Government Association’s One Public Estate (OPE) initiative that supports locally-led partnerships of public sector bodies to collaborate around their public service delivery strategies and estate needs – in this case bringing health and leisure closer together on one site for the benefit of patients.

The new base will include four clinic rooms and office space for the service. Kendal Leisure Centre also boasts a fantastic gym, 25-metre swimming pool, learner pool, indoor sports hall, fitness studios, conference suites and a 900-seat theatre and arts venue. 

Feedback from people using the service has included:

  • “The parking was easy and I do not have to walk as far. It is no trouble to come up in the lift.”
  • “I have recently moved to the area. The pool looks really impressive and coming to my appointment has now made me want to join the gym. I will ask about memberships on my way out.”

Derek Jones, Greenwich Leisure Ltd (GLL) Partnership Manager for Kendal Leisure Centre, said: “As a charitable social enterprise, we are committed to improving the health and wellbeing of our local communities through exercise and we work closely with South Lakeland District Council to achieve this.

“As a hub at the heart of the local community, boasting excellent fitness facilities including swimming pools, Kendal Leisure Centre is ideally suited as a base for iMSK services. We are very proud to be supporting the NHS on this innovative scheme and are confident that together we will help more people with their long-term recovery and provide the best ongoing advice, support and services to enable local residents to lead more active lifestyles.”

Jonathan Ashton, Consultant Physiotherapist and Lead for the iMSK Service, said: “The iMSK team is a team of specialist physiotherapists who work primarily with musculoskeletal problems.  One significant element of our role is the recognition and management of the reasons that people seek help. We try and make every contact count, whether it is a discussion about lifestyle or medical conditions. 

“Our move to Kendal Leisure Centre means that holistic care will be embedded in our community, integrating clinical services with healthy lifestyle and wellbeing teams who can continue to support shared decisions with people about care.

“Locating the iMSK health care service in the leisure centre will provide an immediate awareness of options for a healthy lifestyle and the iMSK team will continue to support rehabilitation that enables people to avoid some surgical interventions and ensure prehabilitation so patients are set for surgery if they do need it.”

So, what is the iMSK service?

The iMSK service is made up of a team of 11 advanced physiotherapists and was commissioned in Feb 2013 and expanded in December 2016 as part of the Better Care Together strategy and partnership approach of the Bay Health and Care Partners.

In 2021, the Bay-wide service saw approximately 7,000 new patients experiencing complex muscle and joint problems. Approximately 10 per cent (700) of these patients were referred from the iMSK service to the Orthopaedic Service at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) for treatments such as surgery, with some of these patients' receiving treatment, a diagnosis, exercises or advice from the iMSK service first before their referral.

iMSK is a service that sits in between primary (GPs) and secondary care (hospital) and triages, assesses, treats and manages patients with complex musculoskeletal conditions. Its main function is to see patients who were traditionally seen by an Orthopaedic Surgeon and who often do not need surgery. One of the aims of the service is to preserve as many natural hips and knees across the Bay if this is the right approach for the patient, using alternatives to surgery.

The team is currently working closely with the hospital’s perioperative group which has developed a patient charter that will offer patients resources to make sure they are maximally fit for surgery.

As well as its base at Kendal Leisure Centre, the iMSK service runs clinics from the following hubs: Heysham Primary Care Centre, Ashton Community Care Centre, Ryelands House Clinic, Royal Lancaster Infirmary, Queen Victoria Centre, Bentham Medical Practice, Grange Clinic, Ulverston Health Centre, Alfred Barrow Health Centre and Millom Hospital. 

Patients with complex musculoskeletal issues can be referred to the iMSK service by their GP or the Trust’s physiotherapy department. You can find out more about the iMSK service at the UHMBT website here.


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