Let patients self-refer to lifestyle management services

Recent draft guidance from NICE gives a much bigger role to exercise and weight loss in people with osteoarthritis, and painkillers such as paracetamol and strong opioids not advised.

I agree that the aims of the new draft NICE guidance on the management of osteoarthritis in primary care are good but the problem will be in providing patients with access to suitable lifestyle and exercise programmes. In many parts of England, these services are either not currently in place or have very limited capacity. As well as putting in place services with sufficient capacity, we also need to ensure there is equitable access to them, based on clinical need. We know from prior experience that it is more affluent and better educated patients who are more likely to take up these kind of lifestyle and exercise interventions.

We also need to simplify clinical pathways and allow patients to refer themselves directly to services without requiring a referral from a GP. This will improve the speed of access to these services for patients and reduce the demands on already over-stretched GP services.

A version of this blog was first published in the British Medical Journal.

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