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Musculoskeletal Clinical Assessment and Triage Service (MSK CATS)

The Musculoskeletal Clinical Assessment and Triage Service (MSKCATS) is service for patients aged 16 and over with any muscle or joint problem who have a Widnes or Runcorn GP

Welcome to the MSKCATS webpage. 

This website contains information on how to self manage a musculoskeletal  (MSK) condition and how to access the MSKCATS service, should you need it, which is a service run by highly trained, specialised physiotherapists in MSK conditions. 

DID YOU KNOW THAT........                                                                                          Most musculoskeletal conditions will settle within 6-8 weeks with the correct self-management and may not even need any intervention from a physiotherapist or other health care professional. 

DID YOU KNOW THAT.........                                                                               

Advice about simple pain relief can be given by your local pharmacist; there is no need to see a GP for this in the first instance. 

Below are some self management advice leaflets and exercises of the most common MSK conditions that you may find useful initially. 

There is also information on general lifestyle, health and wellbeing which you may need to help your MSK condition.

However, if symptoms do not settle down or begin to get worse, please contact your GP to be referred it you live in the Widnes or Runcorn area.


The Musculoskeletal Clinical Assessment and Triage Service (MSKCATS) is service for patients aged 16 and over with any muscle or joint problem. It is staffed by Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy Practitioners (AMPP’s) who are specialised physiotherapists with expertise in musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions e.g. back pain, neck pain and arthritis.

From 10 October 2022, residents who use the Musculoskeletal Clinical Assessment and Triage Service (MSKCATS) will be referred by contacting their GP practice rather than self-referring.

The AMPPs are supported by a team of administration staff.

From 10 October 2022, residents who use the Musculoskeletal Clinical Assessment and Triage Service (MSKCATS) will be referred by contacting their GP practice rather than self-referring.

MSKCATS is available for patients aged 16 and over with any muscle or joint problem who have a Widnes or Runcorn GP.

The change in referral process is required as current patient demand is significantly higher than the services commissioned capacity which has led to increased waiting times. The referral process change will allow MSKCATS and GP practices to share delivery of appointments for patients with MSK conditions. Cheshire and Merseyside Integrated Care Board are working with Halton Health partners to identify opportunities to increase capacity to meet the high demand to MSK services in in the future.

When you contact your GP practice regarding an MSK issue, you may be asked some questions to help them determine whether your needs will be best met by the MSKCATS service or the GP practice. If it is determined that you will need an appointment with the MSKCATS the GP practice will book a slot for you to speak to the MSKCATS administrator, who will call you at an allocated time to begin the appointment booking process.

Residents will not experience any change to the MSKCATS service once referred into it. You will access the same highly trained, specialist physiotherapists who have worked in the service for many years who will offer an expert assessment and patient centered care.

The phone number for the service is no longer in use and a recorded message will advise you to contact your GP practice.

The AMPPs look at the referral forms received daily and triage them. This means they carefully consider all the information you have put on the forms. They also have access to your medical records so can look up any other information they need such as results of investigations or previous treatments. All this information is then used to decide on what is the best management option for you.

  1. Self-management advice/exercises
  2. Telephone Consultation
  3. Face to face assessment with MSK CATS team
  4. Referral to Physiotherapy or other services

Depending on the type of consultation you are allocated MSKCATS assessments may take up to 30 minutes. We endeavour to run our clinics on time; however there may be occasions where an unforeseen circumstance creates a waiting period beyond your allocated appointment time.

For these appointments you will need to wear appropriate clothing For example; if you have a leg or back problem, please bring /wear shorts or a loose fitting skirt. If you have a neck or arm problem, please bring / wear a vest top with you if you feel more comfortable.

Whether your appointment is face to face or a remote consultation, i.e. telephone or video, the MSKCATS AMPP will ask you a variety of questions concerning your condition.

These include:

  • The history of your condition
  • Activities that aggravate/ease your symptoms
  • Medication
  • Past medical history
  • Your occupation/hobbies/interests and how they are affected
  • Lifestyle questions such as smoking and alcohol consumption
  • Results of investigations

You may have already put these details on the referral form, but the AMPP will need to recap these details in case anything has altered. Please bring a list of any question to you consultation if you wish.

With your consent, they may also perform a physical examination, along with different tests which will help them diagnose your condition better.

Following your consultation, the AMPP will discuss appropriate management options with you and organise any necessary investigations, onward referrals or appointments.

Special Requirements

If you require additional assistance, e.g. if you have visual, hearing, language or communication difficulties, please inform us before your first visit.

Please note: family and friends are NOT able to act as an interpreter on your behalf. If you have language difficulties please inform us as soon as possible, and we will arrange for an interpreter to be present at your appointment.

If you require a chaperone, please inform us before your first visit.

MSKCATS is a service available for GP patients who are 16 and over. When a MSKCATS AMPP asks you to agree to any form of examination or treatment, you are always free to say no or to ask for more information.

The AMPP may need to access your GP records, medical notes or previous investigations in order to gain more information.  Any personal information will only be shared with staff directly involved in your treatment.

The data is managed securely under current General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). No information is stored online and our NHS.net email account is encrypted.

If you are unable to attend a consultation or a review appointment please email whh.mskcatshalton@nhs.net or contact: 01928 753210 (Runcorn patients) or 0151 495 5032 (Widnes patients) to rearrange.

Useful Information

To access this service you must have a GP in either Widnes or Runcorn.

MSKCATS do not treat the following:

  • Under 16’s
  • Patients who are housebound
  • Patients registered at a Warrington GP practice.

If you have contacted your GP and been referred for an MSKCATS appointment or received a text message from us, please can you complete the following document/s.

For all conditions: 

Initial MSK HQ - click here.

Final MSK HQ - click here.

IN ADDITION to the above, fill in the additional relevant documents for the condition you are referring into the MSKCATS service with: 

For back problems only:

Start Back - click here.

Making decisions with my healthcare professional - click here.

For shoulder problems only:

Making decisions with my healthcare professional - click here.

For hip problems only:

Making decisions with my healthcare professional - click here.

For knee problems only:

Making decisions with my healthcare professional - click here.

The Nightingale Building (formerly known as Halton Hospital)