More funding for primary care research centre


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Posted on 23 January 2013
At a time when government policy is to shift care of patients with arthritis from hospitals to primary care, it is vital that we look at how we can improve the way that this care is delivered to patients and to make it more efficient and effective.

A leading research centre at Keele University that aims to improve the way that people with common musculoskeletal conditions are treated in GP surgeries has been successful in gaining a further five years of funding.

Following an extensive international review the Arthritis Research UK Primary Care Centre – which involves large numbers of local patients and GP surgeries in North Staffordshire in its research – has been awarded a further £2.2m to support its unique research activities.

Keele’s centre of excellence status was renewed by the medical research charity Arthritis Research UK charity after a successful five years which has seen it attract several million pounds of additional income from other funding bodies, including the NHS.

Over the next five years the centre aims to produce research which will underpin a shift in the way that musculoskeletal conditions are managed in primary care, reducing the existing wide variations in care and treatment.

Currently 20% of adults consult their GP each year with a musculoskeletal problem. These conditions account for one in six consultations, and represent the single largest group of chronic conditions for which patients see their doctors.

“How to manage this enormous workload poses a big challenge for primary care services,” explained centre director Professor Elaine Hay.

“The traditional way in which treatment decisions are guided by the doctor making a specific diagnosis hasn’t helped identify those people who could be supported to self-manage their conditions, and those who need more treatment.

“There is a wide variation in care, with some patients offered unnecessary treatments, while other are denied access to effective treatments. This makes primary care inefficient, and means that patients don’t always get the care they need at the right time.”

The centre will concentrate its efforts on research that tackles this inefficiency by aiming to match patients to the most appropriate treatments; making sure that those patients who can manage their condition themselves get more support, and that those who need more input from their medical team, get it.

One of the centre’s major research achievements of the past five years has been the development of a new screening tool that targets specific physiotherapy treatment for selected people with low back pain. The tool has been widely taken up by GP surgeries across the UK and has already led to increased patient satisfaction and substantially reduced healthcare costs.

Medical director of Arthritis Research UK Professor Alan Silman said: “At a time when government policy is to shift care of patients with arthritis from hospitals to primary care, it is vital that we look at how we can improve the way that this care is delivered to patients and to make it more efficient and effective. Our centre at Keele is best-placed to make a major contribution to this process.”

The research team will concentrate on the most two of the most commons forms of musculoskeletal disease: osteoarthritis and chronic musculoskeletal pain, and the most common inflammatory conditions: gout and polymyalgia rheumatica.


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