NHS physio can be a pain in the back

I’M afraid that Mesdames Gamlin and Saul of Cambridgeshire Community Services (Letters, October 31) are wrong when they state that Physio Direct can cope with the problems of back and neck pain. At both Hinchingbrooke and Addenbrooke’s the service seems to be totally overwhelmed by demand.

On March 8, I saw my GP because I had a severe pain in my right leg and could walk only about 40 yards. He diagnosed ‘muscle irritation’ and told me to contact Physio Direct. He was very specific in warning me that I would have to persevere, and he prescribed pain killers for me to take.

After two weeks of constantly getting the engaged tone I used the internet and downloaded a form and posted it, while continuing to telephone at times. My luck changed when I got through immediately after a computer breakdown had been fixed. Others had given up so letting me through.

I was asked a few questions and sent details of some exercises to do. Neither they nor the pain killers were very effective, so sleep was hard to come by. Even early morning TV failed to induce sleep.

A cancelled appointment for April 5 gave an opportunity for me, but the junior physiotherapist wasn’t much help. In fairness, my GP’s faulty diagnosis probably misled him.

Finally, on April 17, I was offered an appointment for the 31st at Hinchingbrooke. My patience exhausted, I rang a local chiropractor and saw him at 2pm the next day. Within 30 minutes he had diagnosed sciatica and released the trapped nerve. In biblical terms I could then have picked up his couch and walked.

In fact, a week later after two more sessions I went out canvassing for a friend and walked 1.5 miles. Recently I did over 10 miles with very few rest breaks.

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I asked my chiropractor what people on low incomes who could not afford his fees did. “They ask for pain killers and wait,” was the reply.

I later found out that in Essex, Northamptonshire, Lincolnshire and elsewhere up to four treatments with a private practitioner are available on the NHS following referral by a GP.

The system (AQP) was introduced in the Colchester/Tendring area in 2009. That year nearly 3,000 patients were seen within two weeks of referral, and there was a 25 per cent reduction in referrals to spine surgeons. Put ‘back and neck pain’ into Google to read the full details.

Fellow-sufferers in Cambridge tell me that Physio Direct there is also overwhelmed. Sadly, my attempts to bring the ‘Any Qualified Provider’ initiative (AQP) to Cambridgeshire are not making much progress. I wrote to 26 private providers (osteopaths, chiropractors and physiotherapists) in Hunts and asked them to contact the local commissioning officer. Only a handful responded. It seems they are put off by NHS bureaucracy.


Cedar Road

St Ives