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MusculoskeletalJun 21, 2023

Musculoskeletal rehabilitation programmes 'will widen access to community-based options'

Physiotherapists and other healthcare professionals will be able to refer patients with musculoskeletal (MSK) problems for help at 24 leisure centres in England and Wales.

Parkwood Leisure – which is partnering with Legacy Leisure and Lex Leisure – released details of the initiative today (21 June). It is part of a wider bid to forge much closer links between leisure facilities and healthcare providers, with centres becoming accessible community ‘MSK hubs’.

The wider project was awarded £1.4m in funding by UK Research and Innovation as part of the Healthy Ageing Challenge. Researchers are currently charting progress in a two-year project. The initiative is also designed to reduce health inequalities and the growing pressure facing NHS services from people with MSK issues.



Photo Credit: Parkwood Leisure
Making waves: users with MSK issues will be able to access support at leisure centres

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Users who want to exercise more will be given supported, self-management options for maintaining their mobility, physical function and to reduce pain levels.

The two programmes announced today are

ESCAPE-pain : an educational and exercise-based rehabilitation programme, supported by Orthopaedic Research UK, that reduces chronic pain and improves physical and mental wellbeing. 

It stands for Enabling Self-management and Coping with Arthritic Pain using Exercise and was originally developed by Mike Hurley, a physiotherapist by background.

Good Boost: an aqua and land-based exercise rehabilitation programme using artificial intelligence technology to assess conditions and create tailored exercise programmes. Sessions are delivered in group settings to boost social support, with users receiving personalised exercise plans.

The social enterprise uses NHS DTAC [Digital Technology Assessment Criteria for health and social care] approved technology to offer personalised MSK exercise and wellbeing services in community venues.

We believe that there is a huge opportunity for leisure facilities to improve access to healthcare provision and help ease the burden on the NHS [Glen Hall, Parkwood Leisure]

In a partnership with charity Arthritis Action, some sites will run free coffee mornings to support people with arthritis. Users will receive advice on leading more active lives, pain management and what’s available at the centre.

The consortium’s ultimate goal is to weave leisure facilities into the nation’s healthcare infrastructure, turning them into locally accessible community ‘MSK hubs’. Researchers are currently charting progress in a two-year project.

Glen Hall, Parkwood Leisure’s managing director, said: ‘We’re incredibly proud to be a part of this project and we believe that there is a huge opportunity for leisure facilities to improve access to healthcare provision and help ease the burden on the NHS.' 

He added: ‘Working with our partners, we strive to provide everyone within our local communities with the facilities and support needed to encourage healthy and active lifestyles; the launch of Good Boost, ESCAPE-pain and the Arthritis Action coffee mornings takes this even further, and we hope to expand the roll-out across even more sites in due course.’ 

More than 20 million people in the UK have an MSK condition, which costs the NHS £5 billion annually – the third largest area of NHS expenditure.

Parkwood Leisure manages 75 facilities on behalf of 31 local authorities in England and Wales. For information on MSK hubs, click

Author: Ian A McMillan
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