Co-operation between orthopaedics experts at Queen Elizabeth Hospital and family doctors is helping to ease the strain on the Yau Ma Tei hospital's busy specialist back-pain clinic.
While the impact has been limited so far, doctors hope the initiative can help cut waiting times of up to two years for non-urgent cases.
"This is not acceptable for patients, doctors find it hard to accept too," Dr Raymond Chin Ping-hong, an orthopaedics and traumatology consultant at the hospital, said of the waiting times.
The clinic, part of the hospital's specialist orthopaedics clinic, receives more than 1,500 new cases each year, most of them referred from the general outpatient clinic and accident and emergency department.
However, in many cases the patients do not need specialist treatment; only 1.5 per cent end up undergoing surgery.
Since 2009, the clinic has been working with family doctors at the outpatient clinic. Each patient is screened twice, and those who do not need to see a specialist are, with their consent, diverted to a family doctor. About 10 per cent of cases have been diverted so far, and patients wait just a month or two to be seen.
"It's not a big help to our 1,500 to 2,000 patients [each year], but it's a good direction," Chin said.
As part of the programmes, the family doctors involved would spend three weeks working with orthopaedics experts.
Chin discussed the programme at a Hospital Authority convention yesterday.
Dr Alexander Chiu, the authority's chief manager of quality and standards, said the authority was looking at whether the programme could be extended to other hospitals and specialities.