NHS staff need better back pain advice, says audit

NHS staff should get better advice about back pain, according to a new report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP).

The RCP has completed a national clinical audit that examines how NHS staff with back pain are managed and cared for by occupational health professionals.

The results show that staff with back pain need clearer information and advice that highlights the importance of getting back to work as soon as possible.

The audit recommends that patients should be made aware that most cases of back pain get better spontaneously and that returning to work as soon as possible – even when pain is still present - reduces the risk of developing chronic pain and disability.

Musculoskeletal problems such as back pain currently cost the NHS approximately £400 million per year and account for 40 per cent of all staff sickness.

However, the RPC research suggests that most occupational health teams in NHS trusts are managing to provide consistent access to early and effective interventions for common musculoskeletal problems.

The audit found that 90 per cent of NHS staff had direct access to physiotherapy services, 52 per cent could see a physiotherapist quickly via a fast track service and 26 per cent were able to access a physiotherapist who was employed as a member of the occupational health team.

Commenting on the findings Priya Dasoju, CSP Professional Advisor said:‘Physiotherapists are ideally placed to work in occupational health settings, as they are able to provide effective treatment and advice using a biopsychosocial model of care.’

To view the report visit www.rcplondon.ac.uk and search for ‘back pain audit.

See also: new back pain research from the University of Utah on page 14.

Robert Millett

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