As part of the health reforms brought in by the coalition government, the NHS is rolling out AQP contracts for services to the patients of local GPs. AQP (Any Qualified Provider) contracts will be commissioned by groups of local GPs called CCGs (Care Commisioning Groups) for primary healthcare services. These services will include musculoskeletal services for back pain and neck pain, community wound dressing services, diagnostic imaging services among others.

AQP ensures that the practitioners to whom GPs refer meet the standards of organisation and care that an NHS patient requires. GPs are confident that any AQP is safe and effective and because of this they leave the choice of the AQP to the patient.

Richmond and Twickenham chose to roll out the AQP for Back Pain and Neck Pain, in conjunction with Wandworth PCT, first in the country to trial the selection process. It started at the end of September 2012. On the AQP list is a range of physiotherpists, osteopaths and chiropractors in the local area.

The big change for the patient is that, if you have back pain or neck pain, you go to your GP and once they are sure that it is a musculoskeletal problem, the GP will give you a list of approved practitioners. You can then choose who you want to see in your area, make an appointment with them and they will diagnose and treat your problem.

It has been the NHS experience that most back pain and neck pain can be resolved with a course of 4 sessions of physical therapy. The referral from the GP is good for up to 8 sessions, at which point the patient is referred back to the GP for either re-referral back to the AQP, further investigations or a different form of therapy.

This reform represents a big increase in the resources available to treat back pain and neck pain within the NHS. There should be no waiting lists for treatment. If you are suffering you should visit you GP immediately.

— from Jonathan Grice, Evolved Clinic, Regal House, Twickenham www.evolvedclinic.com