From starting out as an ‘enthusiastic, if not somewhat naïve’ NHS physiotherapist, Professor Andrew Walton has built a UK-leading independent-healthcare business helping those affected by musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions, which today treats over 350,000 NHS patients each year, employs over 750 people and reduces 10 to 12 week NHS waiting times to just 48 hours.

Walton has made it his mission to transform how MSK conditions are treated in the UK, after becoming increasingly disillusioned with what he describes as “the waste and clinical variation” that he witnessed within his role.

So, he established Connect Health – which celebrated its 30th year in 2019-  now the UK’s largest independent community provider of physiotherapy, pain treatment and occupational health services based at the Quorum Business Park in North Tyneside. His objectives were direct – to seek an innovative solution to what remains a common and systemic problem: poor use of rehabilitation and long waits for physiotherapy.

In 1993, the business evolved after being approached by a fundholding GP in South Shields who shared in Walton’s vision. In the same year, Gateshead-based manufacturer, International Paints (now AkzoNobel) became instrumental in their success story. The factory’s occupational nurse had recognised that workers who had received treatment for MSK disorders with Connect Health were back to work quicker than their colleagues who had received treatment elsewhere. After realising this pattern, they were keen to provide these services to all their employees. So, Connect Health had found its niche in three markets: private practice, occupational health and the NHS.

Walton says: “It is estimated that over half of UK adults suffer with some form of chronic pain, with over 17 million of those cases being caused by a musculoskeletal condition. These conditions can be a daily battle for patients and a constant strain on clinicians and the NHS alike. My belief is that traditional services are often highly medicalised and interventional, tending to use excessive diagnostics and treatments without any clear evidence, but with high cost and minimal outcome data. Whilst there is still a high public expectation for diagnostics and passive interventions, we believe that active rehabilitation has a huge positive impact, and reduces patients re-presenting to their GP with chronic diseases and pain.”

Fast-forward to 2020, and Connect Health is now the largest independent provider of integrated community musculoskeletal physiotherapy and pain services in the UK, helping over 12,000 NHS patients weekly, across 26 CCGs and well over 100 businesses.  Walton adds: “It has been vital for the continued growth of the organization that we encourage new ideas, ways of working and advanced technology solutions. Together, these widespread efforts have demonstrated benefits to our patients, staff, and taxpayers.

“For example, by significantly reducing NHS patients’ average wait times with a physiotherapist from 10 to 12 weeks to just 48 hours, not only do patients receive a better service, but pressure on primary and secondary care systems are dramatically reduced. This has a halo effect – where over 80% of our 750 employees tell us that Connect Health is great place to work, which is an endorsement we’re very proud of.”

  • End –

About Connect Health Connect Health is the largest, independent provider of integrated community MSK (musculoskeletal) services (including orthopaedics, pain, rheumatology and Occupational Health) in the UK, serving over 300k NHS patients pa across 26 CCGs and 100+ businesses. Connect effectively and efficiently delivers care in a lower cost community setting, transforming services around specific quality and financial objectives and dramatically reducing waiting times and improving access to treatment. For more information please visit www.connecthealth.co.uk