Research finds using physiotherapy on orthopedic patients can reduce surgery waitlist

New research has found using physiotherapy on orthopedic patients can reduce the number ending up on a surgery waitlist by 75 percent.  

The pilot programme in Bay of Plenty has been running for three years and Te Whatu Ora plans to roll it out nationwide.  

Pat Duckmanton is finally back on the move after being crippled by arthritis.   

"I could barely walk 10 metres to the letter box without being in excruciating pain because of the arthritis in my knee," Duckmanton told Newshub.  

But then she did an 8-week programme with two physiotherapists who helped build her strength and flexibility.  

"I'm now able to do gardening, I can kneel on the ground to pull out weeds and bend over," she said.  

"I wish I'd done it a lot sooner," Duckmanton said. 

The pilot programme is for patients with muscular-skeletal conditions, like hers, to try and reduce the number of people needing surgery.  

It began three years ago and they've now seen 5500 patients.  

"Of those 5500 people, 25 percent have gone to see a surgeon for an operation - so the remaining 75 percent of people have managed without an operation," physiotherapist Catherine Willis told Newshub. 

"We've got a long way to go but it's very encouraging so we're now looking at escalating this programme nationally," said Te Whatu Ora planned care taskforce chair Andrew Connolly.  

The physiotherapy programme is about identifying people who could benefit from physio to relieve their pain and symptoms, Te Whatu Ora said. 

And that's led to fewer people needing to see a specialist and be referred for surgery.    

"The key message is we're not trying to talk people out of an operation if they need it," Connolly said.  

Twenty percent of Kiwis waiting for surgery are orthopedic patients and about 10 percent of them have been waiting for more than a year.   

"What we're trying to do is make sure those who need surgery get it in a timely manner and the people who don't need surgery get the care and rehabilitation they need," physiotherapist Eilish Simpson said.