Published on: 22 August 2019

A project, piloted in South Tyneside, to identify potentially serious illness in children so they can receive the right treatment as soon as possible, is in the running for a coveted national award.

South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, in collaboration with Pennine MSK Partnership (PMSKP) and Newcastle University, trialled the RightPath model of care. This entails children and young people with musculoskeletal complaints (conditions that can affect muscles, bones, and joints) being assessed in the community using triage guidance and the expertise of paediatric physiotherapists. Those with potential serious illness are identified and referred promptly to hospital-based specialist care (orthopaedics, rheumatology, neurology or general paediatrics) pending the suspected diagnosis. Those with a non-serious disease are managed in the community by physiotherapists and/or podiatrists.

The work, which was also piloted in Oldham, has been shortlisted out of hundreds of applications for the Community or Primary Care Service Redesign Initiative - North/Midlands/East at this year’s HSJ Awards, which recognise outstanding contribution to healthcare.

Melanie Johnson, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Executive Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals, said: “We are very proud that our joint working has been recognised with a shortlisting in the prestigious HSJ Awards. We are committed to delivering improved outcomes for patients and to be chosen among the other incredible nominees is a wonderful achievement.”

Professor Helen Foster, Professor of Paediatric Rheumatology at Newcastle University and Project Lead for RightPath, said: “We are delighted to have been shortlisted for the HSJ Community or Primary Care Service Redesign Initiative award, recognising the collaborative efforts and dedication of our team members over the last two years to successfully implement RightPath.

“This nomination has been a tremendous boost to staff at Newcastle University, South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and Pennine MSK Partnership, and I am sure it will bolster our continued efforts to improve services for families and children.”

Musculoskeletal cases among children and young people are common in primary care. In most instances, the underlying cause is not serious; explanation, advice and reassurance will often suffice and referral to specialist hospital-based care is not necessary. However, serious illness may be the underlying cause and it is important that those with potentially serious illness are identified and referred on quickly. The aim of RightPath is to provide rapid triage and facilitate referral to the 'right care for the right child in the right place’.

The pilot was completed in 2018 and essentially demonstrated that the model of care is feasible, safe and acceptable to families and clinicians involved. Recently, the team have developed the RightPath website to support other organisations to implement the model. Their work has also informed recent NICE clinical advice for primary care.

The RightPath team were selected for the award shortlist for their ambition, visionary spirit and the demonstrable positive impact that the project has had on patient and staff experiences within the healthcare sector.

HSJ editor Alistair Mclellan said: “We would like to congratulate South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and their collaborators on being nominated in the category of Community or Primary Care Service Redesign - North/Midlands/East ahead of this year’s 2019 HSJ awards. We are looking forward to welcoming them to the ceremony in November to join us in recognising the very best achievements and innovations in the healthcare sector. The entrants this year have been of incredible calibre and each of the finalists in this category has been chosen based on their outstanding commitment to excellence in healthcare.”

Winners will be announced at the 2019 HSJ awards ceremony, to be held at the Battersea Evolution Centre in London on November 6th.