Spinal services report

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The spinal services report from the ‘Getting It Right First Time’ (GIRFT) programme identifies 22 recommendations for improving the spinal speciality in the NHS across England.

The report was written by Mike Hutton and identifies opportunities that will save lives, deliver better patient outcomes, improve efficiency and reduce unwarranted variations between hospitals.  

The report is primarily focused on spinal emergency conditions such as spinal cord injury and spinal infection, as well as the management of common conditions such as back and sciatica pain — which affects one third of the population at any one time and 84% of the population in their lifetime.

What the report found

The GIRFT spinal services report found replacing short term relief injections with long term physical and psychological rehabilitation programmes could help tens of thousands more patients cope with debilitating back pain.

The report's 22 recommendations bring opportunities to improve the patient experience through earlier discharge from hospital and reducing cancelled operations, and could deliver cost efficiencies of up to £27 million.

Key recommendations include:

  • all major trauma centres to have the ability 24/7 to stabilise and decompress the spine in patients with fractured and dislocated spines
  • suggested changes to the referral pathway of paediatric spinal deformity patients to enable children to be treated close to home where appropriate, at a centre with the shortest waiting time
  • access to 24 hour MRI scanning in all hospitals for patients with suspected cauda equina syndrome (a spinal emergency which can lead to limb paralysis and permanent loss of bowel and bladder function if not treated quickly)

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