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Occupational health physiotherapy practitioner appointed to national role, as stats reveal impact of musculoskeletal disorders

Tracey Atkinson named in pivotal position at Connect Health, with reports showing MSK is denting UK productivity, as second biggest cause of workplace absence

With an enviable career history forged on frontline NHS and occupational health services, and a passion for improving industry standards, Tracey Atkinson has been named Connect Health’s National Occupational Health Physiotherapy Clinical and Governance Lead.

In the role, the Northumbria University alumna, who qualified as a physiotherapist in 1993, is focused on ensuring the Occupational Health Physiotherapy Services’ division of the organisation is well positioned from a clinical quality delivery and governance perspective. This includes making sure Connect Health’s clinicians are trained to the highest standards and that its customers receive consistently excellent levels of service.

The position is pivotal against a backdrop of MSK disorders disrupting UK productivity, causing 30.7million lost working days[1] and costing the UK economy an estimated £7billion per year.

Tracey, based in Newcastle Upon Tyne, began her career on the frontline working on rotations at large teaching NHS hospitals in the North East. She later joined Northumbria Police’s occupational health team, where she was able to experience first-hand riot and firearms training to understand the functional requirements of the job, as well as supporting police officers back to work and preventing MSK issues. This also allowed the opportunity to complete postgraduate training at the University of East Anglia in Occupational Health and Ergonomics.

A chance encounter at the ACPOHE (Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics) conference six years later, led Tracey to a Connect Health connection and she joined the healthcare provider a few months later. This year she celebrates her 21-year anniversary with the Newcastle-headquartered company.

Tracey’s impressive and varied expertise in the sector means she is an executive committee member and membership secretary for ACPOHE and has recently been involved with the International Federation of Physical Therapists in Occupational Health and Ergonomics (IFPTOHE) through ACPOHE  After delivering a recent IFPTOHE webinar as a guest speaker, exploring Occupational Health competencies in the UK sector, Tracey will now become part of international working group looking at global standards in Occupational Health Physiotherapy.

She is also currently spearheading Connect Health’s SEQOHS (Safe, Effective Quality Occupational Health Services) re-accreditation and assessment.

Tracey explained: “When I first joined Connect Health, I had the opportunity to deliver on site clinics, ergonomic workplace assessments, and training – which meant I got to experience working with a wide range of different sectors.

“That was one of the main motivating factors for me to move – I knew very few companies at the time that had a variety of occupational health contracts, but Connect Health did. I wanted to gain experience of operating in a more diverse environment and different business sectors, and since then I’ve worked across food manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, call centres, transport, councils, banking, distribution and many more.

“I’ve been passionate about occupational health for a long time and I’m proud to work at Connect Health, where industry standards have always been extremely high. This role provides me with a fantastic opportunity to better support and influence UK-wide delivery of services.”

Graeme Wilkes, CMO Connect Health, said: “After 21 years with us and experience that incorporates every element of occupational health, Tracey’s promotion is extremely well-deserved. Her enthusiasm for the industry and determination for continual improvement across the board is infectious – there isn’t a person better fitted to lead this role, than Tracey.”

[1] In 2018, source: Public Health England

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Tracey Atkinson at Connect Health

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About Connect Health Connect Health is a leading community services healthcare provider encompassing mental health, IAPT, rehabilitation, physiotherapy, tier-2 MSK (musculoskeletal), chronic pain, functional disorder/long Covid, First Contract Practitioners (FCP), rheumatology and occupational health services, serving over 375k NHS patients pa across 55+ NHS partners and 100+ occupational health physiotherapy services. As by far the largest independent MSK and pain services provider, Connect Health supports the NHS to effectively and efficiently deliver care in more appropriate community settings, transforming services around specific quality and financial objectives, dramatically reducing waiting times and improving outcomes for patients. Connect Health was established over 30 years ago and has built an enviable level of specialist expertise in delivering sustained transformation through its dedication to patient care, sophisticated infrastructure, digital tools, highly advanced clinical and operational insight and change methodology.

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