Seven-month wait for pain clinic check in Northamptonshire

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NHS staff who treat patients with muscle and joint disorders have said Northamptonshire GPs are often wrongly referring patients to them.

The comments from hospital workers appeared in a questionnaire by the watchdog, Healthwatch Northamptonshire, taken by 35 staff.

It said staff recommended that family doctors “should be given clearer referral criteria guidelines to avoid inappropriate referrals, which take up time”.

County patient groups have been regular critics of some Northamptonshire GPs over concerns they send patients to specialists too easily, thereby delaying other treatments.

Healthwatch said other staff concerns included waiting times, as well as a need for more administrative staff, more receptionists and access to psychology support.

However, some staff highlighted good quality of care, good team working with a diverse range of clinical skills and access to extended scope practitioners.

A spokesman for NHS Nene said: “The report made reference to how referrals might be improved through clearer guidelines.

“We have tools available to assist GPs to better understand which is the most appropriate service for the patient. This allows the patient to access the right care, in the right place and be treated by the right person first time and every time.

“We have good communication and relationship with our acute trusts and will work with them to identify areas for improvement in relation to referrals.”

Musculoskeletal patients reported “very high levels of satisfaction” with the quality of their care and treatment, Healthwatch Northamptonshire said. 
However, there was concern about the length of waiting times for both first appointments and follow- up appointments. 
In particular, one patient waited seven months to be seen at the pain clinic. 
The report said: “The average wait for the pain clinic is just under three months and the impact of waiting times on peoples’ lives is significant.”
In other findings, 17 per cent of people surveyed were on sick leave due to their condition. A further 14 per cent stated they were in pain, but had no choice but to continue to work. Nearly half of all the patients surveyed who were using one or more department were frustrated at perceived poor communication between departments, particularly between counties.