New appointments announced as GIRFT strengthens its musculoskeletal (MSK) portfolio

GIRFT’s long-standing joint clinical lead for rheumatology – Lesley Kay – has been appointed as the NHS England National Clinical Director (NCD) for musculoskeletal.

At the same time, GIRFT has launched a new workstream focusing on community musculoskeletal (MSK) services, with former NCD Andrew Bennett as its clinical advisor.

Lesley, a consultant rheumatologist in Newcastle upon Tyne, has been the joint clinical lead for GIRFT’s rheumatology workstream since 2017, alongside Peter Lanyon. In 2021, they published their national report for rheumatology, based on visits to 62 NHS trusts and questionnaires returned by all of the 134 English trusts offering rheumatology services.

The report made a series of 23 recommendations to help improve services, including measures to help patients with non-inflammatory painful musculoskeletal (MSK) conditions such as osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia to be seen faster and closer to home in primary or community settings, freeing up hospital rheumatology clinics for patients with other severe rheumatic and MSK disorders (RMDs).

Andrew is a consultant musculoskeletal physiotherapist within Sutton Health and Care, hosted by Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust. He was NHS England’s National Clinical Director for MSK from 2019-2024 – the first Allied Health Professional to hold an NCD role. He worked closely with GIRFT on improving pathways of care and enabling referral optimisation and will now advise on the programme’s new community MSK workstream, with the aim of better enabling integrated care systems (ICSs) to commission the delivery of high quality MSK services in the community, which will benefit patients now and into the future.

Clinicians now working within GIRFT’s MSK portfolio are:

  • Professor Tim Briggs: GIRFT Chair, clinical lead for orthopaedic surgery and SRO for MSK
  • Mike Hutton: clinical lead for spinal surgery
  • Bob Handley: clinical lead for adult orthopaedic trauma surgery
  • James Hunter: clinical lead for paediatric trauma and orthopaedic surgery
  • Lesley Kay and Peter Lanyon: joint clinical leads for rheumatology
  • Flora McErlane and Gavin Cleary: joint clinical leads for paediatric rheumatology
  • Andrew Bennett: clinical advisor for community MSK


Lesley is one of four GIRFT clinical leads now holding national NCD roles alongside their GIRFT positions (see other NCD appointments). NCDs are senior practising clinicians who provide overarching national clinical leadership to NHS England to support programmes and priorities, in addition to their clinical practice in the NHS. They have extensive knowledge of their speciality areas and current experience in frontline NHS services.

Further information on the national NHS England roles can be found on the NHS England website.

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