Published on: 17 April 2019

Investment of almost £38,000 in a new ultrasound machine for South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust’s Biomechanics team will ensure South Tyneside patients with foot and ankle problems will continue to receive quick, safe and effective care for years to come.

For over 25 years, the Biomechanics team have provided a complete, non-surgical service in the community in South Tyneside for musculoskeletal (MSK) problems of the foot and ankle not requiring a specialist opinion in the first instance.  A decade ago, with guidance from Dr Richard Cooper, Consultant Radiologist at South Tyneside District Hospital, they invested in an ultrasound machine solely for their caseload. This quickly led to significant improvements, not only for their patients but also for the Radiology and Orthopaedic departments at South Tyneside District Hospital.

Benefits for patients which have resulted include:

  • Safer care. An ultrasound scan at the first appointment with Biomechanics can eliminate alternative diagnoses, highlight any abnormalities and identify exactly where treatment is needed.
  • Quicker care. Following a scan, patients can be diagnosed, and even sometimes treated, immediately. Previously, it could take 12 weeks from a referral to hospital for a scan to being seen in clinic for a review of the results.
  • More effective care. Ultrasound-guided steroid injections (to treat swollen or painful joints and other soft tissues) are very precise and can lead to better clinical outcomes such as fewer adverse reactions, fewer injections being needed for a satisfactory outcome and less need for surgical referral.

The availability of the ultrasound machine in the community has also reduced the number of referrals from the Biomechanics service to Radiology and Orthopaedics for ultrasounds and X-rays, freeing up time for specialist scanning, including general medicine and breast. In addition, fewer steroid injections are needed in outpatient clinics and under anaesthesia in an operating theatre. The original equipment needed to be replaced due to its age.

Dr Cooper said: “The benefits of the Biomechanics ultrasound machine have been enormous. It has enabled many South Tyneside patients to very quickly receive the quality care and treatment they need in a convenient location without having to come to hospital and it has also had a positive impact in terms of freeing up time and resources in our Radiology and Orthopaedic departments. We are delighted that we can now continue to provide this service using the new equipment.” 

The Biomechanics team’s MSK Podiatrists, Peter Morgan and Lindsey Deary, see a wide range of conditions at Cleadon Park Primary Care Centre, South Shields, including plantar fasciitis which can cause intense heel pain, Morton’s Neuroma (irritation or damage to a nerve in the foot), arthritic joints, painful flat feet, ankle instability, leg length discrepancies, and foot-drop which might require a splint/bracing system.