New Helpline for Joint, Back and Muscle Problems

A new national helpline can now be accessed by patients from Forth Valley who have muscle, back and joint problems which are commonly referred to as musculoskeletal conditions. People over 16, who are registered with a GP, and have conditions including sore backs and sore knees are being encouraged to ring a free telephone triage service which could help them get better more quickly.

The service, which is known as the Musculoskeletal Advice Triage Service (MATS), is run by NHS 24 whose trained staff work closely with physiotherapists to offer expert advice. As many musculoskeletal (MSK) problems settle on their own, patients could be directed immediately to self-care rather than waiting to see a healthcare professional for the same advice. However, if they require to be assessed, they will be directed to the local MSK Hub at Stirling Community Hospital where staff can arrange to make an appointment for them to be seen by the relevant health professional.

Paul McGuire, NHS Forth Valley MSK Redesign Project Manager, said: “We have around 30,000 patients a year referred to podiatry, physiotherapy and orthotics. Often they could recover much more quickly if advice was available at the start of their problems. There are lots of things people can do through exercise that will aid the healing process.”

Claire Pickthall, NHS Forth Valley AHP Manager for Outpatient Services, added: “We are excited to be part of this national programme because our patients will be able to get advice immediately. Often they had to wait to see a clinician before receiving any help.”

The new service, which will be available for patients across Forth Valley from 1st February 2016, can be accessed free on 0800 917 9390 (Mon – Fri 9am – 5pm). It replaces a previous system where people who required physiotherapy were asked to complete a self-referral form through their GP practice.

The MATS helpline can:

  • Safely directing you to key information and advice to help with your problem
  • Find out if you need to see an NHS healthcare professional about your MSK problem
  • Arrange for you to be referred to a healthcare professional such as a physiotherapist or a podiatrist, if required

 The new helpline, however, cannot help with booking and managing appointments, for example with a physiotherapist, orthotist or podiatrist, nor can it organise home visits which will continue to be arranged by GPs.


What happens when I phone?

People phoning the new helpline will be asked a series of questions normally lasting around seven minutes. Healthcare professionals with specialist knowledge of these types of problems have carefully prepared these questions. These have been developed to offer

safe and appropriate care.

Every caller will be directed to key self-care information to help with his or her MSK problem. This information, including where to download the ‘MSK Help’ app, can be found on:

If callers require additional support, it may be suggested that details are

sent on to local NHS services who will then contact the patient direct to arrange an appointment.

No improvement with self-care advice?

It is normal to feel some pain and discomfort when starting to exercise however if their

symptoms don’t improve after two weeks of following advice on they should call the helpline for further advice.

Worsening or changing symptoms?

If symptoms change or worsen patients should speak to their GP or phone NHS 24 on 111 if their GP surgery is closed.